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SaxBasilisk

The Tale of the Bookworm Knight

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I have a character in my game who has expressed a desire to build a small library for her knight. Here's what I'm thinking so far:

Books are rare at the GPC's beginning. Someone might be able to find a few for sale in London, and it might be possible to copy others from the collection of a monastery or a prominent Roman urban family. Such copying might take one year and cost about 2-3 Libra (given that the book gives 5d. for copying a page, and assuming these pages are pretty big).

Books available are mostly Christian sacred texts, liturgies, and devotional works (Religion (Christian)). Other possible works may include those of Caesar (Battle), Cicero (Oratory), or Virgil (Compose), or treatises covering other topics such as Falconry.

During the Winter Phase, the owner of books may choose one in their collection to study. If successful on a Read (Latin) check, the character gains a check in both Read (Latin) and the skill related to the book's topic (provided that skill is below 15).

Any thoughts on this? 

Edited by SaxBasilisk

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Note that literacy and books is closely associated with magic (both natural and demonic) in Arthurian and medieval romance. A literate knight may become feared or suspected of 'trifling' in such things... Never mind what a literate knight might be moved to do with Camille's books.

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Their is many roman books to be found too, on many subjects.

Otherwise, no, I will not give a bonus to a knight for reading a book. Except if she forgot her winter training to read... If I were you, I will let the player create her own library (if it's her wish). Later, during a saxon raid, the library will burn to show the cruelty and stupidity of the dark ages...

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Knights & Ladies had books  on some of the Luck Tables that characters could start off with. A character had to study the book and make a read roll, and then he would get a +3 to a particular skill.  In rare cases a book might give a +3 to two related skills. The key things are that the character has to have the time to prepare ahead of time, and make the Read roll.

I've been working on expanding the half dozen or so examples from Knights  &  Ladies using historical books, and came up with some rules that might help:

Cost/Value: I went with the £20+ (similar to the items that given bonuses in the Luck Table in the Book of Sires) for a typical book, and £50+ for a book that covers two skills. That is for a decent copy, with a little illumination - a fully illuminated one would cost five times that.

Copying: Since they are just books, and nothing magical, I allow them to be copied. This means hiring someone to do it and is assumed in the basic £20+ price. The person coping the book must make a Read (relevant language)) roll to copy the book. On a failure the copy is imperfect and only grants a +1d3 bonus instead of +3. On a fumble the book is riddled with errors and adds +1d6-3 (yes, following bad advice can lower your chances of success). It takes a year to copy a book (usually at one page a day).

Translating Books: I also allow books to be translated from one language to another. This requires the scribe to make Read rolls in both the original language and the new one, and use the worse result of the two. Translating a book takes twice as long (so two years).

Some examples: 

Ars Armorica by Ovid, a book of poetry: When consulted, requires a successful Read roll, then grants +3 to Flirt and+3 to Courtesy with women.

he Physician's Establishment of Surgery by Hippocrates, a book of Chirurgery: Requires a successful Read (Greek), then grants +3 to Chirurgery

Elementa Harmonica by Airistoxenus, a book of Music: Requires a successful Read (Latin), then grants +3 to Compose and +3 to Play (Instrument)

 

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I find the items in BoK&L too strong in many cases: the tables are from a totally different power level compared to the main KAP 5.x book (save perhaps the healing potion in KAP 5.x).

However, talking about the OP, I would be fine with it. Sure, it will be a bit cheaper over long term than hiring a tutor in a skill, but it is behind a Read Latin roll, which is normally waste of points, so it is hardly unbalancing by any means, especially as you can only benefit from one book per year. Jeff brings an interesting point of what this might do to the knight's reputation.

So yeah, I don't see a problem here.

48 minutes ago, Tizun Thane said:

Otherwise, no, I will not give a bonus to a knight for reading a book. Except if she forgot her winter training to read... If I were you, I will let the player create her own library (if it's her wish). Later, during a saxon raid, the library will burn to show the cruelty and stupidity of the dark ages...

It is not a bonus, it is an Experience check. A Bookworm Solo, if you will. It would be stupid to lose your Yearly Training for a potential check in Read & another Skill, since Yearly Training already gives 1d6+1 skill points without any experience rolling up to 15, same cap the OP is suggesting.

Sure, if there is a Saxon raid that manages to burn down the manor, then the library is likely to go up in flames, too. But I would leave that to dice. I would not target the PK specifically, unless the PK manages to get the peasants so worked up that they burn the manor themselves to get rid of the sorcerous lord/lady. Heck, that reputation might even be beneficial in some cases, though, if it spreads to the Saxons, too. Might discourage raids at the cost of making your own peasants step warily around you.

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On 10/21/2019 at 8:16 AM, SaxBasilisk said:

I have a character in my game who has expressed a desire to build a small library for her knight. Here's what I'm thinking so far:

Books are rare at the GPC's beginning. Someone might be able to find a few for sale in London, and it might be possible to copy others from the collection of a monastery or a prominent Roman urban family. Such copying might take one year and cost about 2-3 Libra (given that the book gives 5d. for copying a page, and assuming these pages are pretty big).

Books available are mostly Christian sacred texts, liturgies, and devotional works (Religion (Christian)). Other possible works may include those of Caesar (Battle), Cicero (Oratory), or Virgil (Compose), or treatises covering other topics such as Falconry.

During the Winter Phase, the owner of books may choose one in their collection to study. If successful on a Read (Latin) check, the character gains a check in both Read (Latin) and the skill related to the book's topic (provided that skill is below 15).

Any thoughts on this? 

I have a literate knight in my game, and I've been thinking similar thoughts. I like your take on the training use. Prices might be a bit higher, using the given copying rate -- a book would probably have something like 200 pages at least,* so you'd theoretically be looking at 4+ libra. That seems a bit high to me, particularly as that's for non-illuminated books, but I guess it can work for the early period (EDIT: though 2-3 libra also seems fine to me). I'd bring costs down a lot (maybe 50%) after the Conquest period (reflecting twelfth- and thirteenth-century developments). I can see why Atgxtg went with £20+, but I would use that sort of price for heavily illuminated works.

The most common books in the early period would be gospels (containing one to four of the gospels) and psalters (containg the Book of Psalms), both of which would also often include extra material such as liturgical calendars, glossaries or litanies. A portable single-volume Bible would actually be rare before the thirteenth century. Books of hours are another thirteenth-century development.

(I think the rulebook overstates medieval illiteracy somewhat. There's evidence that literacy was not uncommon among knights and barons, even from the 11th century, though there would also have been a broader range of competencies than we're accustomed to think of.)

*I'm thinking of something like the Stonyhurst Gospel, an 8th-century gospel book that contains the Gospel of John in 188 pages. It's in a very small format, but with a larger format you'd be more likely to include more than one gospel.

 

Edited by Uqbarian

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23 hours ago, Morien said:

A Bookworm Solo, if you will.

I forgot this damned solos. You're right. Your idea reminds me of the jousting improvement in the book of the manor. You pay 1 £ and you gain a check in lance. If the PK studies a book (4-5 £ for the simple ones), he will gain a check in correlation with the topic of the book. It's not game breaking.

 

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3 hours ago, Tizun Thane said:

I forgot this damned solos. You're right. Your idea reminds me of the jousting improvement in the book of the manor. You pay 1 £ and you gain a check in lance. If the PK studies a book (4-5 £ for the simple ones), he will gain a check in correlation with the topic of the book. It's not game breaking.

Exactly. Especially when you look at the Tutor in Book of the Entourage, who grants a check for an annual cost of £1. You will need to be using that book at least £ amount of times before it breaks even with a Tutor, and that is ignoring the limit of a Read roll. Frankly, I would probably rank the books by their capped skill (10 for basic introduction cost £1, 15 for intermediary texts cost £2, and 20 for classics like Commentarii de Bello Galico for £4) and let the Player go hog wild in assembling a library. This is an excellent moneysink as far as the GM is concerned, since no matter if they have 100s of books, they can just benefit from one at the time. So let them waste as much money as they want.

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6 hours ago, Uqbarian said:

I can see why Atgxtg went with £20+, but I would use that sort of price for heavily illuminated works.

I went with £20+ for a couple of reasons.

First off, it matches the price of the magnificent sword and  saddle in the Book of Sires Luck Table. Those give a +1 to the relevant skill when used, all the time, whereas the books gave a +3, but required a read roll and time to  prepare, so I figure the value would balance out.

Secondly, according to KAP 5.2  the standard cost to get something written or copied is 5d per page, and 25d per illuminated page. That works out to £1 per 48 pages (we could round to 50 pages), and that's without any binding or cover, nor any illumination. So £20 can pay for a Clerk, a leather cover, and about 200-900 sheets of hand written vellum, depending on the amount of illumination, and for any pages that got ruined during the copying process.

As far a real world Books go, I've read that a relatively inexpensive book, a  Latin psalter,  in ther 12th century went for about  53 shillings ( about £2 ½) but that was also about the same price as a warhorse, as well as the typical wage for a laborer.

 

2 hours ago, Morien said:

Exactly. Especially when you look at the Tutor in Book of the Entourage, who grants a check for an annual cost of £1. You will need to be using that book at least £ amount of times before it breaks even with a Tutor, and that is ignoring the limit of a Read roll. Frankly, I would probably rank the books by their capped skill (10 for basic introduction cost £1, 15 for intermediary texts cost £2, and 20 for classics like Commentarii de Bello Galico for £4) and let the Player go hog wild in assembling a library. This is an excellent moneysink as far as the GM is concerned, since no matter if they have 100s of books, they can just benefit from one at the time. So let them waste as much money as they want.

Yeah I could see capping a book off it if were to be used for character improvement for  I'd require a successful Read roll to get the bonus, and probably grant a roll for improvement rather than a check. 

Edited by Atgxtg

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1 hour ago, Atgxtg said:

Yeah I could see capping a book off it if were to be used for character improvement for  I'd require a successful Read roll to get the bonus, and probably grant a roll for improvement rather than a check. 

I think we are talking a bit past each other here. I am talking ONLY about getting an experience check to be rolled in the Winter Phase, as the OP suggested, not any flat bonus to the skill.

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1 hour ago, Morien said:

I think we are talking a bit past each other here. I am talking ONLY about getting an experience check to be rolled in the Winter Phase, as the OP suggested, not any flat bonus to the skill.

Yes, a little. But per the OP idea I'd was thinking that:

  • A Read roll is obviously required to get the benefits of the book
  • Possibly capping the book at the character's Read skill. The idea is that someone with Read (Latin) 2 is probably at the "See Cabal run." stage and probably wouldn't be able to read the "big words: or grasp the concepts in a book such as Caesar's Gallic Wars, required to improve Battle 16.

 

 

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9 hours ago, Atgxtg said:

I went with £20+ for a couple of reasons.

First off, it matches the price of the magnificent sword and  saddle in the Book of Sires Luck Table. Those give a +1 to the relevant skill when used, all the time, whereas the books gave a +3, but required a read roll and time to  prepare, so I figure the value would balance out.

Secondly, according to KAP 5.2  the standard cost to get something written or copied is 5d per page, and 25d per illuminated page. That works out to £1 per 48 pages (we could round to 50 pages), and that's without any binding or cover, nor any illumination. So £20 can pay for a Clerk, a leather cover, and about 200-900 sheets of hand written vellum, depending on the amount of illumination, and for any pages that got ruined during the copying process.

Yep, I got that first part, and the second part makes sense (but also allows for something closer to £5 for a small non-illuminated book).

9 hours ago, Atgxtg said:

As far a real world Books go, I've read that a relatively inexpensive book, a  Latin psalter,  in ther 12th century went for about  53 shillings ( about £2 ½) but that was also about the same price as a warhorse, as well as the typical wage for a laborer.

Neat! That's also when a coat of mail might cost 100 shillings, going by Hodges's list. (Hodges also mentions a set of 126 books going for 113 pounds in 1397, but prices would tend be lower then, though he doesn't mention what sort of books these were.)

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17 minutes ago, Uqbarian said:

Yep, I got that first part, and the second part makes sense (but also allows for something closer to £5 for a small non-illuminated book).

Certainly. I used the £20+ price specially for something like the books listed in K&L. Something less fancy with a smaller page count would be cheaper, especially if it didn't give a +3 bonus to a die roll, like the ones in K&L did. There should probably be a minimum size/cost to a book in order for it to be good enough to grant a check, though. Either a fixed minimum, or one tied to how high the book can take you.

17 minutes ago, Uqbarian said:

Neat! That's also when a coat of mail might cost 100 shillings, going by Hodges's list. (Hodges also mentions a set of 126 books going for 113 pounds in 1397, but prices would tend be lower then, though he doesn't mention what sort of books these were.)

Yeah, once the printing press comes out book prices drop by something like 80%. So basically 1d per page at that point. So the 126 books @ £113 would have been something like £565  in the old days.

 

Still it's hard to correlate that to Pendragon as historical prices varied considerably over several centuries, and Pendragon uses an approximation for most things. To put it into modern perspective Coca-Cola has been available in a 12 oz. can since 1960, and the price of such a can today is about six times the price it sold for 60 years ago (although with inflation and buying it on sale the relative "cost" has stayed the same).

 

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3 hours ago, Atgxtg said:

Yeah, once the printing press comes out book prices drop by something like 80%. So basically 1d per page at that point. So the 126 books @ £113 would have been something like £565  in the old days.

Even before that, books would tend to cost significantly less by the beginning of the thirteenth century than they did at the end of the eleventh, as lay literacy increased, universities emerged with associated book trades, and the relative importance of scriptoria declined. Increased use of paper also lowered prices for cheap books well before printing.

3 hours ago, Atgxtg said:

Still it's hard to correlate that to Pendragon as historical prices varied considerably over several centuries, and Pendragon uses an approximation for most things.

Definitely!

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16 hours ago, Atgxtg said:

Secondly, according to KAP 5.2  the standard cost to get something written or copied is 5d per page, and 25d per illuminated page.

I do wonder a bit about those prices. For instance, Estate has a Writer cost £2 per year + £1 in equipment, and these are translations or new works, not mere copies. Simply copying a book ought to be even cheaper and faster.

Or to use another example, a lute player is a whopping 60d per event in KAP 5.2, but in Entourage, you can hire one for a full year with 120d, just the cost of two events.

Or Chirurgeon for a day is 20d, so 140d for just one week, but hiring one for a year is £1+, depending on the skill(s).

Lawyer is 12d per day, and Estate gives £1 as the yearly fee. (The argument could be made here that the Lawyers ought to start from £2 rather than £1, which would make their yearly salary equal to 40 days, which would be somewhat more balanced.)

Common 'professional woman' is 5d per night, whereas a commoner concubine would be £0.5 (+£0.5 for the kids) per year. So 24 days = 1 year (ignoring the pimp here, which I admit makes a big difference on the money the woman herself gets to keep).

Granted,  I do recognize that there is a definite discount for having retained someone for the whole year instead of just for a day, but in some cases (like the lute player), the difference is so huge as to be silly.

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6 hours ago, Morien said:

I do wonder a bit about those prices. For instance, Estate has a Writer cost £2 per year + £1 in equipment, and these are translations or new works, not mere copies. Simply copying a book ought to be even cheaper and faster.

Yeah, I think most of the prices are a bit suspect. To be fair, it would be impossible for them not to be. The game encompasses elements of Britian from the 5th century all the way to the 15th. No way to find a price list that works for all those times. I do think though that with books part of the high cost is due to the fact that to write a book you'd need to wipe out a couple of herds of sheep.

6 hours ago, Morien said:

Granted,  I do recognize that there is a definite discount for having retained someone for the whole year instead of just for a day, but in some cases (like the lute player), the difference is so huge as to be silly.

Well to fair to Greg, the hire someone for £1/year didn't come about until after he did up the price lists.  I will say that often it does cost considerably less to keep someone on the payroll that to if you hired someone on short notice to do a specific task. Still £½ a night seems high. While I don't believe such a woman would work every night of the year (or half to), she might work every other night, and that gives her the same income as a estate holder with ten knights! A shilling a knight (12d) is probably more like it. But then maybe she is really uping her price because she knows knights can pay it, and the rest of the time she charges less? I've heard that medieval merchants actually kept several prices lists in their heads tailored to their customers. 

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5 hours ago, Atgxtg said:

Well to fair to Greg, the hire someone for £1/year didn't come about until after he did up the price lists.  

Well, he already did have the £4 per knight (incl. squire & horses) per year in play, so...

5 hours ago, Atgxtg said:

I will say that often it does cost considerably less to keep someone on the payroll that to if you hired someone on short notice to do a specific task.

Certainly. Like said, I would be totally fine with the Lawyer being 12d per day and costing £2 per year retained. An unretained Lawyer would probably spend many a day hunting for clients or moonlighting as a scribe for a much lesser fee... A Chirurgeon with 20d I am a bit more iffy. Sure, if that one visit from the Chirurgeon is enough to get you through your weekly healing, then sure. But if you are having to pay that 20d every day for a week, it becomes expensive real fast, especially as the knights often need several weeks of healing to get Healthy again after dropping to Unconscious. It would not be rare to require something like 5 weeks of healing or even more, which at these prices would be 700d. (We very rarely if ever make an issue about Chirurgeons in our campaign, as there are usually ladies around who are happy enough to help the valiant knights. But when the PKs were in the habit of venturing into Forest Sauvage and the like, they used to bring their own Retained First Aid Specialist with them as a Party Healer. Saved some lives.)

IMHO and all that: A 120d per night courtesan should not exist. (Nor would they be French! Franks are still half barbaric!) Courtesans of this stature are not selling their wares per night, but are very well kept mistresses of the higher nobility.

Anyway, back to the books...

5 hours ago, Atgxtg said:

I do think though that with books part of the high cost is due to the fact that to write a book you'd need to wipe out a couple of herds of sheep.

I actually agree with you here that the cost of the (unilluminated) book would probably be mainly the material costs... And given how rare some of the paints are, even illuminated books might have a significant material cost still, although obviously it would require some more artistry as well.

Anyway, since I am not trying to run anything like SimManor, I would just put a reasonable cost down and tell the Player to have fun with it. :)

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29 minutes ago, Morien said:

.... selling their wares per night, but are very well kept mistresses of the higher nobility.

Yeah I think we are in agreement here. But again I think it is more of an artifact old KAP3-4 where the French were, well French. Now thay are mostly Franks until the later Periods.

29 minutes ago, Morien said:

Anyway, back to the books...

I actually agree with you here that the cost of the (unilluminated) book would probably be mainly the material costs... And given how rare some of the paints are, even illuminated books might have a significant material cost still, although obviously it would require some more artistry as well.

Anyway, since I am not trying to run anything like SimManor, I would just put a reasonable cost down and tell the Player to have fun with it. :)

Yes, Illumination is another case entirely. In addtion tot he materials it would also take someone with talent,  take longer to do which means more man-hours per book., and probably have more more "lost" pages that have to be redone for some reason. So the increased cost reflect that.

 

Overall I'm fine with a player spending a couple of libra for a book. It's only when the book gives a game benefit that I get concerned. I don't want them to be able to buy a perpetual check in a skill for a bargain price. Something like 10 libra, or 3-5 with a required Read roll, seems okay to me. I figure that if the PK has his Read skill up to 15, he could have gotten the skill he is studying up to 15 instead. So this really only becomes useful if he buys multiple books, and  by then it's a lot of investment for a skill check. 

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1 hour ago, Atgxtg said:

I figure that if the PK has his Read skill up to 15, he could have gotten the skill he is studying up to 15 instead. So this really only becomes useful if he buys multiple books, and  by then it's a lot of investment for a skill check. 

Not to mention that a Tutor is just £1/year for the check, without a skill roll anyway.

If we assume Read 10, this fails half the time. So a £4 book will need 8 years to get 4 checks, and the PK would have gotten those 4 checks for £4 in 4 years without any investment in Read skill using a Tutor. Thus, a £4 book only starts to become useful if the PK boosts the Read to 15 ASAP, and uses the book to get more than the libra amount of checks.

I would be very much tempted to limit the Tutors to their own skill as far as how high they can train a PK. So if a Tutor has a skill of 15, that is the max they can help the PK, so if the PK has the same skill at 15, no benefit. That would force the PK to hire a tutor who would be more qualified, and hence more expensive.

In short, though, I don't see the experience checks being too unbalancing, and I would be much happier with a PK spending £20 on a library of books than on mercenaries.

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39 minutes ago, Morien said:

Not to mention that a Tutor is just £1/year for the check, without a skill roll anyway.

If we assume Read 10, this fails half the time. So a £4 book will need 8 years to get 4 checks, and the PK would have gotten those 4 checks for £4 in 4 years without any investment in Read skill using a Tutor. Thus, a £4 book only starts to become useful if the PK boosts the Read to 15 ASAP, and uses the book to get more than the libra amount of checks.

Exactly.

39 minutes ago, Morien said:

I would be very much tempted to limit the Tutors to their own skill as far as how high they can train a PK. So if a Tutor has a skill of 15, that is the max they can help the PK, so if the PK has the same skill at 15, no benefit. That would force the PK to hire a tutor who would be more qualified, and hence more expensive.

Yes, although Pendragon doesn't track that. I'd expect most such tutors to have a 15 when hired or shortly thereafter (1 point per year per Entourage), and then go up another point every 6 year or so. So if if he has a 15 by age 24.; 16@ 30, 17@36, 18@42, 19@48, 20@56.

39 minutes ago, Morien said:

In short, though, I don't see the experience checks being too unbalancing, and I would be much happier with a PK spending £20 on a library of books than on mercenaries.

I don't see it being a problem either, as long as a PK can't get a gazillion checks that way. I don't mind the mercs though, either. 

One subtle perk with this would be that books would count as treasure so it is a way for a PK to save some of his income. It would probably be interesting for a player knight expecting ransom to end up with his very own library! I'm going to have to do that the next time my PKs capture a Roman knight.

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26 minutes ago, Atgxtg said:

I don't see it being a problem either, as long as a PK can't get a gazillion checks that way.

The suggestion in OP was that you can only get one check by year by reading books no matter how many books you have.

Good point about them counting as treasure, though.

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5 hours ago, Morien said:

The suggestion in OP was that you can only get one check by year by reading books no matter how many books you have.

Good point about them counting as treasure, though.

Hmm, I wonder if it would be better if instead of noting individual books and skills a character could just build a library that could be used to improve any skill? The library would have a rating that would be it's cap on how high it could raise a skill, and could having an increasing cost. 

 

Or maybe just a library improvement to a manor that grants a check to any one skill, every year. with a successful Read roll?

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1 hour ago, Atgxtg said:

Or maybe just a library improvement to a manor that grants a check to any one skill, every year. with a successful Read roll?

That would be possible, of course, but it would have pretty insane start-up cost. I think I prefer the 'Ars Magica' route of keeping track of the actual books, especially since you can then buy and sell them individually, making it a bit more flexible for the player to pick and choose.

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1 minute ago, Morien said:

That would be possible, of course, but it would have pretty insane start-up cost.

I don't think it would have to be all that insane. Once again, using the tutors as an example, a character could get a check in any skill for £1/year. So a generic check that requires a read roll might work at the £20-25 range. It might not be all that cost effective for the purchaser but it certainly would be for his heirs.

1 minute ago, Morien said:

I think I prefer the 'Ars Magica' route of keeping track of the actual books, especially since you can then buy and sell them individually, making it a bit more flexible for the player to pick and choose.

Yes, unless the library has a rating that is purchased, and is either the upper cap to it's effectiveness, or to the chances of success, or even both. For example what if the rating equaled the libra spent on it? So if someone sold part of their library for £10 , it's rating would drop 10 points. But it's just an idea, I'm not sure if I'd prefer it that way either.

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Thanks for everyone's responses - it's good to know that I seem to be on the right track mechanically.

I'll keep in mind Atgxtg's prices, but I think Morien's are a a bit closer to what will work functionally in the game. (I'm also curious as to what assumptions as to page size lie behind the book copying prices...)

And I'll definitely use Jeff's suggestion about such a library bringing the character a sinister reputation. The player will likely view that as a bonus.

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