1 Magical History
2 Twelve Houses
3 Hermetic Oath
4 Public Perception
5 Character Creation
6 Companions & Grogs
7 Covenants
8 Techniques
9 Forms
10 Forms 2
11 The Church
12 Evil
13 Cast of Evils
14 Maleficia
15 Ars Goetia
16 Black Magic
17 Cults
18 Hedge Wizards
19 Sample Hedge Wizards
20 Drinky Hedge Wizards
21 Learned Magicians
22 Nightwalkers
23 Vitkir
24 More Vitkir Runes
25 Order of Hermes
26 Crime & Punishment
27 Craft Guilds
28 Travel
29 The Market
30 Merchants
31 The Divine
32 Miracles
33 Holy Magic
34 Solomon
35 Jews
36 Muslims
37 The Families
38 Solomonic Arts
39 Zoroastrianism
40 The Middle East
41 Middle Eastern Politics
42 Amazons
43 Amazonian Magic
44 Augustan Brotherhood
45 Sortes Virgilianae
46 Muspelli
47 Muspelli Socializing
48 Soqotra
49 The Burning City
50 Great Towers
51 Hermetic Shipyard
52 Intangible Assassin
53 Living Corpse
54 Menagerie of Magical Beasts
55 Byzantine Empire
56 Fall of the Byzantines
57 Hermetic History
58 The Theban Tribunal
59 Byzantine Society
60 Byzantine Myths/Greece
61 Aegean Islands
62 Titans & Magical Beings
63 Groups & Gatherings
64 The Magic Realm
65 Magic Characters
66 Magic Animals
67 Magic Humanoids
68 Magic Spirits
69 Magic Things
70 Adamic
71 Canaanite Necromancy
72 Defixio Magic
73 Fertility Magic
74 Grigorian Magic
75 Mechanica
76 Hesperides
77 Hyperborean Hymns
78 Faeries
79 Vitality
80 Faerie PCs
81 Faerie Sympathy
82 Faerie Magic
83 Ars Fabulosa
84 France: A History
85 The Normandy Tribunal
86 Covenants
87 Regional Overview
88 Nobility
89 Vassals
90 Regions & Nobility
91 Code of Hermes
92 All Sorts of Fun
93 Horses, Hawks, & Hearts
94 Patronage
95 Peasantry
96 Mysteries
97 Mystery Magic
98 Alchemy
99 Astrology/Celestial Magic
100 Augury/Divination
101 Theurgy
102 Talismans
103 Dream Magic
104 Neo-Mercurians
105 Philosophers of Rome
106 Mystic Fraternity of Samos
107 Knights of the Green Stone
108 House Bjornaer
109 Clans of House Bjornaer
110 Sleeping Years, Awakened Years
111 Heartbeasts
112 Inner/Greater Heartbeasts
113 House Criamon
114 House Criamon Lore
115 Gorgiastics
116 The Path of the Body
117 The Path of Seeming
118 The Path of Walking Backwards
119 House Merinita
120 Quendalon
121 Schools
122 Folk Mysteries
123 Illusion Mysteries
124 Nature Mysteries
125 House Verditius
126 Verditius History
127 Vendettas/The Contest
128 Confraternities
129 Automata
130 The Church
131 Pilgrimages/Mystical Thought
132 Clergy
133 Arch-Clergy
134 Church Law (donk donk)
135 Monastaries
136 Heresy & Reform
137 Corruption?
138 The Cistercian Order
139 The Vallumbrosan Order
140 The Knights Templar
141 More Templars
142 Templar Day-to-Day
143 The Challenges of Francis
144 Saint Damian Church
145 House Bonisagus
146 Schism War
147 Bonisagus Mages
148 Breakthroughs
149 House Guernicus
150 Guernican Plans
151 Laws
152 Legal Clauses
153 Quaesitores
154 Fenicil's Rituals
155 House Mercere
156 Societas Merceres
157 Redcaps
158 Gifted Mercere
159 Gay Witchcraft
160 Coeris
161 Tribunes
162 Tremere Duelists
163 Tremere Schools
164 Vexillations
165 House Flambeau
166 House Wars
167 The Milites
168 Wizard's War
169 House Jerbiton
170 Why Faeries Are Ugly
171 Jerbiton Beliefs
172 Jerbiton Subgroups
173 Jerbiton Specialties
174 Miniatures
175 House Tytalus
176 History Tytalus
177 Society Tytalus
178 Magi Tytalus
179 Intrigue & Debate
180 House Ex Miscellanea
181 Sub-Societies
182 Donatores Requietis Aeternae
183 Cult of Orpheus
184 Rustic Magi
185 Hermetic Sahirs
186 Grogs
187 Rewards and Punishments
188 Grog Jobs
189 Academia
190 Platonic Tradition
191 Geometry & Astronomy
192 Cosmology & Causality
193 Geography & Meteorology
194 Magic & Philosophy
195 Humors
196 Ill Health
197 Doctors
198 Experimental Philosophy
199 Formulae
200 Schoolin'
201 Universities
202 Maestros
203 German Myth
204 German History
205 More German History
206 Gilds
207 Paths
208 More Germany
209 Even More Germany
210 The Eastern Marches & Bohemia
211 The Lost Covenant of Fenistal
212 Tribunal Culture
213 More Tribunal Culture
214 The Magyars
215 The Fectores & the Bulgarians
216 Exhibits
217 The Pechengs & the Teutonic Knights
218 The Scholomance
219 Kezdo Valasz
220 Giants
221 Weres

Magical History

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: The Core

So, I'm going to try to be more concise than usual. But hey, let's talk about wizard history. I'm going to be skimming the mechanics, largely because I want to make you fall in love with the setting. The system is decent but not amazing or really exceptional in major ways. European wizards are organized, largely, into the Order of Hermes. There's around 1200 wizards total in the Order, divided into thirteen Tribunals across the continent. They are more potent than any other single group of magic-users in the world, as far as they know, but they cannot hope to challenge, say, God.

Anyway, magic wasn't invented by the Order. It's existed ever since civilization began - the Gifted, as magic-users are known, have always found ways to use it. Often they ruled over those without the Gift for a while before the envy, suspicion and hatred caused by their tyranny and the natural effects of the Gift destroyed them. They didn't usually organize - there's three real reasons why. First, the Gift naturally encourages others - including other Gifted - to mistrust you. Everyone was a traitor eventually. Second, no one had magic resistance, so whoever struck first usually won, and everyone knew that. Preemptive strikes were the order of the day. Finally, each wizard understood magic in a different, often incompatible way, and little could be shared easily.

Enter the Roman Cult of Mercury. They managed, barely, to exist as a group of Gifted by not meeting in person often (and so avoiding the effects of the Gift), save for when they performed the great rituals that were their most potent tool. Further, the Cult said that anyone who killed a member of the Cult would be hunted down and killed by the rest, which they enforced strictly to reduce the use of preemptive strikes. Last, the Cult of Mercury had a number of magical effects that could easily be taught or learned, even by someone who already knew many, so they had some motivation to share knowledge. However, suspicions did grow within the Cult that some were hoarding to strike against the rest, and soon after the Western Roman Empire fell, the Cult tore itself apart. Magic entered a dark age, which it would take three centuries to emerge from.

Jump to 300 years later, we meet Bonisagus, the founder of the Order. He is, without doubt, the greatest magical genius ever to live. He made two discoveries, either of which would have made him a scholar remembered forever. The first was the Parma Magica, a defense from magic which also shielded the user from the effects of others' Gifts. Behind a Parma Magica, you could talk to other Gifted without automatically starting to hate them, and with little fear of sudden attack. However, it took Bonisagus' student, the already potent Trianoma, to realize the potential of the Parma. It could make a society of magi possible, in which differences could be resolved and no one got murdered. (Much.) Bonisagus, already working on a unified theory of magic, was happy to just go along with Trianoma on this.

Trianoma traveled across Europe to find the most potent wizards. Her Parma Magica made her immune to their attacks, and her own power left many in no doubt that she could defeat them. Some ran or hid, but others listened to her ideas and agreed to meet with Bonisagus. From the discussions they had, Bonisagus drew much knowledge. He used the Cult of Mercury's traditions to develop Formulaic and Ritual magic, and from the druidic outcast woman Diedne he learned to create spontaneous magic. From Verditius, he learned to bind magic into items, and from Merenita the art of binding animals by magic. From each of the eleven who came, he learned something, and to each he taught the Parma Magica.

The end result was the second great discovery of Bonisagus: the theory of Hermetic Magic. In 767, the thirteen wizards gathered in the Black Forest at Durenmar, swearing to the Code of Hermes and creating both the Order and the first Tribunal. The first magi are always the Twelve Founders, though there were thirteen; Trianoma refused to be equal to the rest, claiming position beneath them in order to mediate struggles. Each of the Founders established a House; the current House Ex Miscellanea came later, and the thirteent at the start was House Diedne. House Diedne was bonded by an ancient pagan religion, which it soon became the dominant force in.

The Order grew rapidly, with the True Lineages recruiting apprentices organically, the Mystery Cults initiating recruits among the friendly and the other Houses by other means; Merenita, not yet a Mystery Cult, recruited those who loved the wilderness. Diedne sought those who followed its religion. Jerbiton sought those of high cultural standards, even approaching Charlemagne. And Flambeau and Tytalus magi simply crossed the continent with an ultimatum for those they met: Join or die. Within 40 years, the Order dominated the magical landscape of Europe.

They still do, but they've had their share of problems. In the early 9th century, for example, the wizard Damhan-Allaidh (pronounced Dahvan Allath), a potent and evil British wizard, led an organized resistance against the Order. Rather than face them in open combat, his followers cursed them, harassed them, used traps and hired mundane killers. For years, this worked well, and some thought the Order would be stopped outside Britain. That's when Tytalus sent his apprentice, Pralix, to defeat Damhan-Allaidh. She was cunning, and with a series of raids and battles she was able to defeat the wizard and convert many of his followers. However, as the Order prepared to welcome her, she sent a message: Pralix was establishing her own Order, the Ordo Miscellanea, to compete with the Order of Hermes and keep it strong. Flambeau wanted war, but Tytalus was impressed and negotiated a settlement. In 817, the Ordo Miscellanea joined the Order of Hermes as a thirteenth House, Ex Miscellanea.

In the meantime, House Tremere had been building its power, with Tremere himself in close control of it. Through use of the magical certamen duel and careful alliances, the House seized control of several Tribunals, and was ready to take more. When the eleventh Founder died, leaving Tremere the only surviving Founder, he was ready to dominate the entire Order. However, an unknown group broke the minds of his closest lieutenants. This event, the Sundering, also shattered the power structure Tremere had built. Tremere met with the Sunderers, or perhaps their agents, and an agreement of some kind was forged. Tremere died soon after, but the House has kept to the agreement and never since tried to take over the Order.

In the late tenth century, House Tytalus went too far searching for challenges, seeking to control demons and becoming corrupted. They tried to corrupt the rest of the Order was well, but one of their own alerted the Quaesitores, and the ORder went to work purging the diabolists. The Prima of House Tytalus, Tasgillia, was the most prominent target of the purge, but the House lost many of its members and has never again recovered its former size. Just after that, at the turn of the millenium, the Order began to descend into anarchy. The corruption of Tytalus made everyone paranoid about secrets, even without the Gift's provocations. Many disputes became deadlocked in Tribunal, and most Tribunals had no quorum, with each magus hiding in their own covenants. Magi who felt threatened resorted to the Wizard's War and even to illegal raids. The Quaesitores, Redcaps, Bonisagi and others interested in keeping order were stretched thin and could not force it on people. The anarchy grew, and it seemed as if the Order was over.

That's when House Tremere declared war on House Diedne, who had always been somewhat distant from the rest of the Order, which was largely Christian, unlike the pagan Diedne. Rumors of their dark rites followed the corruption of Tytalus, and few trusted the Diedne. Cercistum, the Primus of Tremere, called on the Order to purge Diedne of "diabolism," and Houses Jerbiton and Flambeau soon joined them. Many other wizards joined the war, and none publically supported Diedne. Seizing the chance, the Bonisagi and Quaesitores summoned an emergency Grand Tribunal, at which House Diedne was declared Renounced, and it was made the duty of all Hermetics to destroy them. The war was bloody and destructive, and House Diedne was wiped out, though its leaders were never found. The Order believes them dead but fears some fled to a magical regio, biding their time and hunting for revenge.

With Diedne destroyed, the Schism War ended and the Quaesitores were able to enforce the Code of Hermes, using the uniting of the Order against a common foe to convince the other magi that they never wanted such chaos again. Once again, law ruled the Order. Since the Schism War, the Order has existed in relative peace. The year is now Year of Our Lord Jesus Christ Twelve Hundred and Twenty, and the last living magi who could remember the Schism War are either dead or passed into Final Twilight, and memories of the dark times are fading.

Next Time: The Houses of Hermes

Twelve Houses

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: The Core

All right. Twelve Houses! Used to be Thirteen Houses, but the Diedne are gone forever now. The Houses fall into three groups: the True Lineages (Bonisagus, Guernicus, Mercere and Tremere) who are all made of wizards trained by wizards trained by wizards and so on up the line, all of them tracing back to the House Founder. They don't take people in after apprenticeship. The Mystery Cults (Bjornaer, Criamon, Merinita and Verditius) allow anyone to join by being initiated into the cult, teaching the cult's Outer Mystery and allowing the student to perhaps learn the deeper, more mysterious secrets they keep. The final four are the Societates, Ex Miscellanea, Flambeau, Jerbiton and Tytalus, and they're based on common interests. It's pretty easy to get into a Societate after apprenticeship, and those who feel they don't fit their master's House often do. Hell, Ex Miscellanea will take anyone who can speak a little Latin, knows a little magic theory and has the Gift. Oh, and they'll teach you the parts that you don't know. You can only be in one House at a time.

House Bjornaer cares about animals and the bestial side of humanity. Each Bjornaer is able to take on the form of an animal, known as the Heartbeast, and understanding the Heartbeast and the nature of animals is perhaps more important to the Bjornaer than Hermetic theory. Due to the Heartbeast, the Bjornaer are incapable of forming a bond with a Familiar; many view the Familiar as a substitute Heartbeast for other magi. Many are wary of the Bjornaer, as they love the bestial side of man and descend from a Germanic rather than Roman magical tradition.

House Bonisagus descend from both Bonisagus and Trianoma, though Trianoma was of course Bonisagus' student. They are split into two subhouses - the followers of Bonisagus, who focus on theoretical magic and pushing the bounds of Hermetic theory, and the followers of Trianoma, who focus on Order politics and keeping everyone from killing each other.

House Criamon is a secretive House, devoted to an obscure philosophy. The Criamon disdain simple power, and are known to tattoo themselves with arcane symbols. They are an enigma to other magi and have little interest in politics. They themselves seek the Enigma, some form of mystical experience which has something to do with discovering the true nature of the Wizard's Twilight and magic itself. (Wizard's Twilight, as a note, is what happens when magic goes wrong - you are trapped in an otherworldly realm for increasingly long periods and can't escape until you understand the experience. The Final Twilight is the one that never ends for you.)

House Ex Miscellanea are large, diverse and profoundly disorganized. Originally founded by Pralix to be a rival to the Order, they joined as a House of their own. They accept any kind of wizard, some of which are only nominally Hermetic, and the other Houses often derogatorily refer to them as hedge wizards, though most are just as skilled as any other magus. Magi of the House tend to have very little in common, with each tradition in the House having its own strengths and weaknesses.

House Flambeau tend to specialize in fire magic or pure destruction magic. They aren't subtle, mostly, and they're highly aggressive and fierce. They often cause trouble for the rest of the Order and frequently anger normal people. On the other hand, their utter fearlessness and destructive power make them perfect for when the Order needs martial skill.

House Guernicus descend from the Founder Guernicus, who believed the Order needed strictly enforced rules. They are the judges of the Order, investigating lawbreakers and trying cases against them. They believe that without their work, the Order would collapse to internal conflict. They are sometimes called House Quaesitor, for quaesitor is the title of those magi who are investigators. The House largely accepts only the apprentices it trains, but you can be invited to become a quaesitor - it's one of the highest honors in the Order. You just don't get to join the House. Quaesitores are often called in to investigate possible crimes or mediate disputes. Their work is valuable, and they are traditionally paid a donation of a few pawns of vis, raw magic in physical form, as recompense.

House Jerbiton is focused on the mundane world, and sometimes takes the duty of keeping the Order on good terms with the nobility and Church. They are often from noble backgrounds, skilled artists or craftsmen, and their Gift tends to grate on other sless, compared to other magi. Many believe the Jerbiton are too closely tied to mundane powers to be trusted, and the Jerbiton sometimes fear that the other magi have become too isolated from humanity, risking conflict. They try to heal the rift and also pursue aesthetic and philosophical knowledge as well as politics.

House Mercere was founded by a magus who lost his magical powers, assuming the role of messenger. All members of House Mercere, Gifted or unGifted, are considered magi by the laws of the Order, and all spend 15 years in apprenticeship even if they lack the Gift. Mercere are often called Redcaps for their badge of office, a red hat. They are permitted to attend Tribunal, but only the Gifted may vote. Many of them are not Gifted, though some are. Most of the House is descended from Mercere by blood, and from one of his two apprentices by training.

House Merinita focuses on the world of the faeries, and they tend to be rather eccentric. They are often isolated from other magi, except to defend the fae. They do not care for the mortal world, preferring to try and solve the many mysteries of Arcadia. Other magi know very little about their mystery cult, but they have powers of faerie magic.

House Tremere are planners, strategiests and control freaks. They focus on strict hierarchy, with superiors controlling lessers, and care quite a lot about dignity. They are seen as very sensible and stable, bringing strength and courage when needed and doing little when peace is best. They descend by training from Tremere, and accept no outsiders whatsoever. Their founder invented the Certamen duel, and they remain amazing at it. A magus of Tremere holds their apprentice's voting sigil until defeated in a duel, and if someone who doesn't have a sigil has an apprentice, they send that up the line to whoever holds theirs. As a result, House Tremere's votes are bloc votes, held by a small number of magi.

House Tytalus seek to master all forms of conflict. They love innovation of all kinds and are always in some form of struggle, testing the strengths and weaknesses of those around them. They believe in constant change and challenging the status quo, even if you'll lose. They once went too far in this, as we know, and fell prey to demons. Ever since the execution of the diabolist Tremere, the House has not been trusted very much.

House Verditius are enchanters. None are better. All of them, pretty much, also suffer from the same flaw as their Founder: they can't cast formulaic magic without the aid of tools. Despite their skill in enchantment, other magi sometimes consider them inferior as a result. Their mystery cult is quite potent, though, and very valuable both to other magi and to the unGifted for the items they create.

Next time: The Laws of Wizardry

Hermetic Oath

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: The Core

The Hermetic Oath itself is given in full in the book. Mostly, it boils down to: 1. Be loyal to the Order. 2. Do not ever try to take someone's magic power. 3. Don't kill other Hermetics outside a legally declared Wizard's War. 3. No revenge for Wizard's War. 4. Abide by Tribunal decisions; one wizard, one vote. 5. Don't endanger the Order, interfere with mundanes, deal with devils or molest the fae. 6. Don't scry on other Hermetics. 7. Train apprentices to obey the Code, and if they fuck up, be the one to take them down. 8. Kill those who are outcast from the Order. 9. House Bonisagus is allowed to just come in and take your apprentice if they feel like it. In return, House Bonisagus must share their work with all.

In theory, the only sentence for Codebreakers is death. In practice, lesser offenses get fined, though death is the punishment for refusing to submit to the lesser punishments. Those who refuse to obey Tribunal decisions suffer the Wizard's March, in which the entire Tribunal casts them from the order, Renouncing them. Then whoever kills them gets to keep their stuff, so all sorts of people try it. The whole 'depriving another of magic power' clause is usually called on for offenses that fall short of physically attacking a wizard, like busting up a lab or killing the servants. Depriving a magus of resources, after all, deprives them of some of their magic power. The core meaning, though, is do not ever try to fuck with their Gift.

The Wizard's War allows for a conflict between magi to escalate to open war, allowing the two magi to temporarily set aside the Code. You start a Wizard's War with a declaration of war which must arrive on the next night of the full moon. The war begins on the rise of the full moon and lasts until the full moon after that. Unjust or constant use of Wizard's War is discouraged, and occasionally those who declare war too often will be Renounced.

The clause forbidding interference with the mundanes is probably the most controversial one. You need to deal with them, after all, just to survive. Typically, the second part of the clause, 'and thereby bring ruin to my sodales' is brought in to excuse dealings that do not bring harm to other magi. Typically, that's permitted. Many precedents, however, have established that working as a court wizard is a violation of the Code.

Naturally, those who work with demons are ruthlessly hunted down and killed. Period. No arguments, no exceptions. Trying to destroy demons is acceptable, but frowned on - you just don't want demonic attention at all. The molesting-the-faeries clause depends on your definition of molestation. Since faerie areas are so full of vis, few magi will actually argue that running in, blasting faeries while you harvest the vis and then running away is 'molestation.' That's made it pretty hard to define, and rarely prosecuted. Usually it comes down to politics and whether other magi have suffered. Unlike the mundane and demonic clauses, however, friendly dealings with the fae are perfectly allowed. Note the lack of clause protecting magical creatures or other wizards; this is deliberate. Trianoma wanted the Order to be able to use force to compel others to join. Excessive interference, though, could still fall under 'endangering the Order by my actions' which is forbidden.

The rule against scrying on other wizards is surprisingly well-enforced. Tribunals have ruled it illegal to scry on non-wizards as well if, by doing so, you are using it to learn about a wizard's activity. Also, walking around while invisible counts, legally, as scrying. And ignorance is no excuse - scrying on a wizard you didn't know was a wizard is still illegal. Of course, there's rare precedent in the other direction, too, but most Tribunals are quite strict about the scrying law.

The apprentice clause, on the other hand, is barely enforced at all. Magi do not have to train apprentices if they don't feel like it, and the obligation to join a Wizard's March against your apprentice if they fuck up is more social expectation than legal duty. However, the special right of House Bonisagus to just coopt any apprentice they like is enforced. So is the law stating that House Bonisagus research must be freely shared.

Wizard law is handled by Tribunals, formal gatherings of magi in which each magus votes on the issues. The Peripheral Code records all such votes and decisions. Legally, for a Tribunal to count, it needs at least twelve magi from at least four covenants, at least one of which must be a Quaesitor, who does not vote but does count as one of the twelve. You can vote by proxy, giving your voting sigil to someone attending on your behalf. The Tribunal is chaired by a Praeco, the oldest magus present, who cannot vote except to break ties but does have the right to declare order of business and, in extreme circumstances, silence or eject a magus. If the ejections drop you below quorum or deprive you of having a Quaesitor, the Tribunal ceases to be valid. At the end of a Tribunal meeting, the Quaesitor must certify it as valid, which is the main check against abuse by the Praeco.

The most important Tribunal is the Grand Tribunal, held once every 33 years and bringing in magi from the entire Order. It is always held at Durenmar, the domus magna (read: headquarters) of House Bonisagus and the birthplace of the Order. Each regional Tribunal sends three representatives, and the Primi of the Houses also attend. The Primus of House Bonisagus is Praeco, even if an older magusi s present, and the Primus of House Guernicus serves as presiding Quaesitor. The Grand Tribunal is for issues affecting the Order as a whole, and its decisions have a lot of weight. It is the only Tribunal with authority over the entire Order, and thus it is where inter-Tribunal disputes are handled.

The regional Tribunals, in theory, are composed of all the magi living in a certain area. The areas are roughly fixed by Grand Tribunal decisions, but the magi in them can change the name of the Tribunal at will and set membership requirements freely. In general, you don't change Tribunals if you go visiting, and different Tribunals may have laws on how long your visit can last. The regional Tribunals meet once every seven years, and the Redcaps are required to ensure that every magus in a Tribunal receives an invitation.

Next time: Dealing with people.

Public Perception

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Count Chocula posted:

Mors, what happened to your awesome Ars Magica thread that described why you should join each clan? I love how detailed the game gets with research and publications.

Still exists, the thread is here. No one's posted much in it though! That's why I'm doing this - to convince people the game is awesome.

Ars Magica 5th Edition: The Core

Your average peasant is terrified of wizards and avoids covenants. This is fairly reasonable; most covenants are in dangerous, magical areas. Also, the Gift rubs people wrong and people are rightly afraid of people who can turn them into toads. They may invent or adapt local legends about a covenant, which may well be entirely false. Isolated covenants may not even be known by the peasants, especially since they don't want to know. Most covenants do rely on peasants for food, just nobles and priests do, though. These peasants tend to find the magi creepy but will accept them as lords so long as they're treated well. (Indeed, they might be better lords than most - weather control, you know.) Typically a covenant will keep an unGifted official around to deal with them, and sometimes the peasants will even feel a degree of affection for "our" wizards, so long as they don't have to meet them often. Covenants are also a good sanctuary for people who don't fit society - women who want to be scholars or warriors, for example, serfs who seek freedom and so on. Typically, mundane people join a covenant more because they don't want to be somewhere else rather than because they want to be around wizards.

Officially, the Order and Church have no relationship at all. The Order is quite aware that God backs the Church and that they could wipe out the Order as a result. The Church is aware that the magi are powerful and at least some of them are good Christians. Their tendency to harbor heretics is bothersome, but as long as the magi keep out of Church affairs, the Church won't take official action. Individual clergy, though, run the full gamut, from believe that all magi are devil-worshippers to enthusiastic scholarly collaboration. Most covenants try to stay on good terms with local priests, though, usually via unGifted intermediaries. Tribunals treat interference with the Church as a serious crime, because, again, the Church could destroy them. Friendly or at least neutral relations are encouraged, and direct attacks lead to you being Renounced and killed before the Church can justify a Crusade.

Most nobles are aware of the Order, and any covenant will soon become acquainted with the local nobles. Most are also aware, vaguely, that the Order's wizards can't swear fealty to them, so they try to be slightly more subtle about it. Individual attitudes, as always, vary widely. Most covenants try to stay on good terms with the nobles, but most can't manage to win over everyone, so there's usually some tension. Few nobles are stupid enough to directly assault a covenant, at least, but any covenant that wiped out a noble for any reason would soon find itself before the Tribunals. The Code tends to rule that deals with nobles are fine as long as they don't involve service of permanent magical aid, though that's not a definite.

Magi tend to avoid cities, since the Gift pisses people off and most cities have a Dominion aura (more on that later) that dampens magical power and interferes with research. On the other hand, cities have scholars, merchants and resources, and even simple magic can support trade, so some covenants settle in cities. They tend to try and find a magical regio within the city, to get away from the Divine aura, and typically they serve as go-betweens for more rural covenants. For most magi, though, cities are for visiting, not living.

Also: can I sell magic items? At first, it was unrestricted. In 1061, however, a series of rulings made it illegal to accept money or goods as payment for arcane services from anyone who doesn't belong to a covenant. The rulings also said that any magic item sold to a non-magus member of a covenant must lose power, either via charges or limited duration. There are two major loopholes here: first, mundanes can pay via magic items or vis, though few have access to vis. The Order does love to trade temporary magic items for permanent ones, though. And hey, a mundane offered an item that will last for his and his son's lives may well trade a weaker but permanent item for it. The Quaesitores approve of this. The other glaring, likely deliberate loophole is this: nothing stops a mundane member of a covenant from selling an enchanted item or accepting commission to obtain a specific item. Thus, the main effect of these rulings is that you go through a middleman rather than directly.

Hermetic magi are not the only wizards out there, of course. They're the most powerful, sure, but some people have supernatural powers without the Gift, or the Gift without being Hermetic. Official policy is that all wizards must join the Order. However, it's rarely enforced, especially against weak wizards, priestly wizards or noble wizards. Powerful and isolated wizards are heavily encouraged to join, and may die if they refuse, but others are merely threatened if they cause trouble. Since non-Hermetics have no Parma Magica, this tends to work. There is one case where 'Join or Die' remains heavily enforced, though: if any non-Hermetic learns the Parma Magica or any other form of general magic resistance, the Order wants them in or dead. Period. Rulings on this have been essentially unanimous - the monopoly must be preserved.

Next time: Characters.

Audience participation time! I need three characters: a wizard of some variety. A non-wizard of some variety. A less important non-wizard.

Tell me who they are.

Character Creation

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: The Core

Ars Magica character creation is, sadly, very complex. It follows a lot of steps and uses XP totals that you have to check against charts to see what level in what ability they give you. I use spreadsheets to make it easier, but I actually enjoy doing it. I'm weird that way. It does, however, provide you with very detailed characters.

Jacques d'Orleans, Jerbiton Magus

Jacques here is something of a specialist. He's Jerbiton, an educated and noble magus who is an accomplished musician and a specialist in travel spells, though he's somewhat careless with his magic. When he fucks up, it tends to be big. Very big, and often very strange. He has blackmail on at least one noble, and he plans to use it to get ahead.

You may notice that Blackmail is listed as a flaw. Flaws and Virtues come in two levels: Minor, which gives or costs 1 point, and Major, which is 3. Blackmail is a Minor Story flaw, which means it's actually mostly positive to take but is going to cause adventures. Minor Story flaws are usually positive; Major ones are mostly negative. You can only have one Story flaw, period. You can have up to two Personality flaws, only one of which can be Major - Jacques her is very Ambitious and has a minor Proud flaw. Careless Sorcerer and Weird Magic are Hermetic flaws, wizard-only. They mean that when he botches he spell, he really botches a spell.

Jacques got a fairly basic childhood package - he speaks French fluently, is decently passable at a few social skills and then got picked up for his 15-year apprenticeship. As an apprentice he, like all magi, learned to speak Latin, achieved basic literacy, learned good amounts of magic theory and the basics of the Parma Magica. He specialized in Corpus, body-affecting magic, and Terram, earth magic. He also focused on Creo and Rego, creation and control.

He has basic healing magic, teleportation magic (that he can only manage because of his specialization in travel), some body-control debuffs and rock-hurling. You get 120 levels of spell during your apprenticeship, with a hard cap based on your stats on the level of any single spell. Spell design is pretty simple - there are rules in the book for it, and it's pretty much all divisible by 5. After apprenticeship, Jacques spent five years practicing and learned Muto, change magic, and also learned how to create gold from nothing, grow people and shoot crystal darts. He's pretty well off that way. He is a pretty normal starting PC.

Wolfgang Krieger, Criamon Magus

Wolfgang is more of a study magus than Jacques was. His childhood XP mostly went to the very basics of survival and social skills. He's much more focused on what he learned after - theology, philosophy, greater understanding of the arts and the lore of both the Magic and Divine realms. He also possesses the innate ability to sense holy and unholy things, with a focus on the Good and holy side of things. Wolfgang also possesses Faith, granting him innate magic resistance. However, he is especially susceptible to Divine auras, which weaken magic, and he has trouble doing magic without his crucifix, thanks to his devotion and need to have God approve of what he does.

Wolfgang's magical focus is on knowledge (Intellego), control (Rego), the magic of the mind (Mentem) and metamagic (Vim). He has minor skills in creation magic as well, but not much. He learned that after his apprenticeship. Most of his spells are focused on control or understanding of the human mind. He also has wards against ghosts and demons. His primary control is the ability to make others see him as authoritative, or to put them to sleep. He can do basic mind-reading, too. He also knows the Aegis of the Hearth, a very important spell for parties because it lays a shield over your home base, weakening the magic of anyone who didn't take part in the ritual. Very important defensive ritual.

Like Jacques, Wolfgang spent five years after his apprenticeship ended learning more things - but unlike Jacques, he didn't learn much magic. Rather, he focused on theology, lore and philosophy. He's quite good at ritual magic but has relatively few ritual spells - he'll probably be looking into more of them in play, along with his research on the nature of divinity.

Leon the Sailor, Criamon Magus

Leon is different from the other two. Unlike them, he didn't become an apprentice at age 5, but age 15. He's just out of apprenticeship. Leon's early life was as a sailor. He had relatively poor social skills, but was a good swimmer and is considerably more physically adept than the other two, thanks to his years on the sea. He's still very good at sailing, too. However, his apprenticeship involved a Wizard's Twilight that drove Leon a bit mad. He's prone to greater Twilights now, and has occasional prophetic visions that he cannot control. He's become alcoholic as a result, and he simply cannot write a decent book to save his life - his rambling gets in the way.

He's an extreme specialist in Aquam magic, the magic of water, focusing on change (Muto) and control (Rego). He also knows Auram, air magic. He has little beyond the basic knowledge hammered into all magi, but he's very good at water magic - he learns it faster and easier, and he does it better. His spells reflect this, and include a spell that turns water to air as it enters the lungs, the ability to spread oil with his footsteps, control of waves or wind on a minor level, the ability to turn wind into a weapon and the ability to sense poison.

He's just barely out of apprenticeship, despite being older than the other two, and will likely want to bolster his skills - Aquam is truly at its best at high levels which he couldn't reach as an apprentice. He may want to dabble more in Creo or Perdo magic, too.

Next time: Non-magi!

Companions & Grogs

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: The Core

You may have noted that almost none of our magi have skills above a 3 in pretty much anything but languages. That's pretty normal for magi. They care more about magic and tend to be decent at best at mundane tasks. Often they're just flat terrible. None of our magi have any real combat skills at all, either, except for casting spells. That's also pretty normal.

That's where Companions and Grogs come in. You play one Magus-level character, one Companion-level character and have a communal pool of Grogs. Companions are less potent than magi - they get fewer XP, but also have less to spend it on, since most of them can't do magic at all. Certainly none of the Companions we can build out of the core book. As a result, they tend to be significantly more skilled at a wide array of mundane tasks.

Carlos the Brave

Carlos is a Spanish knight. He's pretty notable for the fact that his highest stat is actually Presence, the primary social stat, rather than any of his combat stats. But still, he's a good fighter. He's spent 20 years getting damn good at it. As a knight, he gets access to the most expensive weapons in the game, and he specializes in them - specifically, the longsword. Swords cost. He's amazing with a sword, and pretty good at most social skills, too.

Of course, unlike magi, Companions need to spend time maintaining their lifestyles. However, Carlos is a wealthy knight, having probably inherited a lot of money and, in general, being very good at his job. He only has to spend one season a year out working, and has three free seasons to do whatever he likes. He's also very good at inspiring others to great shows of courage. He's illiterate, of course, but that hardly matters when you're a self-sufficient, inspiring warrior who can woo the ladies, hobnob with the nobles and kill bandits with extreme skill.

Of course, Carlos is not without his problems. He suffers the Curse of Venus, a major Story flaw. Essentially, people fall in love with him a lot. People who really, really shouldn't. The local lord's wife, evil witches, mad faeries...Carlos lives a very interesting life. He's also extremely proud and overconfident, and...well, don't let him lead the group. He's going to get you lost. This can make his escapes from those aforementioned ill-advised lovers very difficult.

Father Francois

Father Francois is not a combatant Companion. He's got no combat skills. That's okay, though - he's clever and sociable. He has social skills that are much better than those of most magi, and without the Gift to hobble him. Plus, he's got Faith, granting him magic resistance, and a piercing gaze that often makes people break down and tell him the truth. Plus, he's very well-educated. Better than most magi, actually - he can speak Latin as well as they can, but has much greater understanding of theology and the Artes Liberales. And he's a great teacher - the person whom the magi will likely come to if they want to learn anything he knows. Between his teaching skills and his understanding of human nature, he's quite a useful man to have around.

Of course, it's not all good. Father Francois is a Black Sheep - the Church does not appreciate his openminded acceptance of many heresies or his closeness to the magi. He has few friends among them, and his presence is likely to make Church relations worse, not better. He's extremely pious, as well, and doesn't like it when he has to break God's laws. And, of course, he has a vow of celibacy to uphold, but that's not too onerous.

Of course, he spends a good two seasons out of the year preaching and administering to his flock, and so is unavailable in that time for adventuring.

Richard Breton

Richard is another warrior. He's a mercenary captain, so he comes with a small team of warriors. (That's not hard, though - pretty much every covenant has a small team of warriors.) His primary skills are: murdering people, being tough as nails and speaking multiple languages. He's a good leader and a skilled tracker, though he's only okay at social skills. He has a fairly similar build to Carlos, actually, but with less focus on social skills and more on multiple weapons.

Richard, specifically, is built to handle a two-handed warhammer in most cases, a bow at range and, if he really needs defense over power, swapping to a shield and any one-handed weapon he can get his hands on. He's also pretty sneaky, as far as warriors go. Of course, his heavy scarring and missing ear make him frightening to most people, and he's not very good at telling where sounds come from. He's also prideful and prone to anger. He's the eldest of our three Companions, so he had the most XP to work with, which is why he has so many weapon skills.

Grogs are the next step down. Grogs lack one trait both magi and Companions get: Confidence. Confidence is basically something you can spend to get bonuses to rolls. Grogs don't get it. They also can't take Story flaws or Major flaws of any kind, and can have a fewer number of Flaws in general.

He has two seasons a year running his company and making mercenary money.

Jane Barleycorn

Jane here is a British minstrel. She's small, reckless and gets into everyone's business, but she's great at music and learning about what's going on. She also has a supernatural ability - her voice is enchanting, such that it can induce emotions in listeners, regardless of her musical skill. She's not trained that power much, though.

Jane is a great musician and good at most social skills. She's also a minor thief, but she's not very good at it. She has very little in the way of combat skill - about all she can do is try not to get hit. But since she's not a very important character at all, that hardly matters. She is very young, only a few years over minimum age for a Companion (generally around 15). Her social skills could make her a valuable information gatherer for a covenant.

Klaus the Scarred

Klaus here is a combat grog. He's angry and he hates nobles - probably thanks to some event in his past which may at some point come up, but probably won't. He's a grog, his backstory is frankly unimportant. He's an excellent mace-fighter and decent with a bow, plus a great hunter and wilderness guide. Very handy to have around on a long journey through the wilds.

His social skills are decent at best, but that's not why he's kept around anyway. He can manage a stable if push comes to shove, he's athletic and alert, and he makes for a great camp guard and warrior. Don't expect him to be a leader or anything, though. And, of course, like pretty much everyone in this post that isn't a priest or clerk, he's illiterate.

Gilles LeBlanc

Gilles here is a very basic grog. He's a clerk, employed largely as a go-between for other mundanes and a scribe. He's pretty good at that - he is literate, for one, and can read and write in Latin as well as French and basic German. Very handy - he can copy books, though not books of magic. He needs a basic education in magic theory for that. More importantly, however, he's a steward, and a skilled one. He'll be the one organizing payrolls and managing the other grogs for your magi, serving as a buffer for the Gift and generally keeping things running smoothly.

That's a very important job, even if he's not a very important character. He'll also do well as a merchant and social character when needed, and can handle the stables if no one else with more skill is around. He's also got a basic understanding of the civil and canon laws, especially the laws and customs of Germany. That may never be useful for most people, but if it comes up, he's handy to have around.

(Of course, Gilles' early-onset arthritis means his use as a scribe is limited - his hands can't take it.)

Next time: Covenants


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: The Core

A covenant, of course, is the term used for an organized group of magi and assorted hangers-on. It is, in a way, a character as well - one that's made by the collaboration of the entire party. It is the home base of the party and it will strongly influence the game. Covenants are traditionally classed into four types by the Order. Spring Covenants are just starting out, with few resources and few magi, most of whom are very weak. Many Spring Covenants don't make it. You play in a Spring Covenant if you want to be pioneers, possibly lacking even standard buildings when you start if you really want to go ground-up. A Summer Covenant refers to a firmly established covenant that is still growing. A long Summer is best. Playing in a Summer covenant means you don't really have to worry about the place collapsing, but you're also not the oldest or most powerful magi around. Still, Summer covenants are usually not so organized that the elders are giving orders, so you're generally free to do what you like.

You thought I was kidding when I said the Aegis was one of the most important spells in the game?

An Autumn Covenant is living off the fruits of past glory, but has not yet begun to decline seriously. The most powerful covenants in the Order are Autumn, for the Autumn after a long Summer can last for centuries. There are two real ways to play an Autumn Covenant. First, you could be the youth of the covenant, having to work for the elders...or you can be the elders in charge. Being junior magi is good for players who have no real idea what to do but like the idea of the game, since their seniors will serve as bosses for a time, and as they succeed they'll get more and more independence. (Also their seniors may die of old age.) Playing elders is really only for very experienced parties, not least because the first step is creating elder magi, and even the book thinks this isn't exactly an easy task and requires you to understand the magic rules intimately.

A Winter Covenant, meanwhile, is one in heavy decline, on the way to death. Winter Covenants tend to be filled with old and eccentric magi who have little interest in recruiting. However, sometimes new blood does get brought in, and the Covenant moves around to Spring once more. Pulling a Winter Covenant back to Spring is a fun idea, especially if you want the freedom of Spring with the history and grandeur of an older covenant. The primary difference is that a Winter Covenant still has a few old magi hanging around, both far older and more potent than the PCs, but also usually obsessed with their own obscure research.

Designing a covenant involves another complex subsystem to determine what kind of useful books, stocks of vis, vis sources and other resources (like specislist craftsmen and so on) are on hand. The more interest part is the part with the Hooks and Boons. These are like Virtues and Flaws, except for a full Covenant. Boons are good things, while Hooks are stroy-causing things, often problems. Hooks and Boons can be major or minor, though some can only be one or the other. The core has a fairly short list of them, so I'll just give 'em to you. A Covenant must have the same value of Hooks and Boons, with minors worth 1 and majors worth 3.

Unknown : Only the GM (or, in troupe play, only one player) knows what the Hook actually is. An Unknown Hook is always a minor Hook, but counts as a Major one, pointswise. The characters do not know what it is, and will discover it in play. If you don't really want to do troupe play, the Unknown hook isn't really appropriate.
Beholden : As a minor Hook, the covenant owes favors to someone or something, perhaps a bishop, lord or magical being, who can't give orders but can ask for help. As a major Hook, they can give the Covenant orders, though the covenant still decides how to carry them out.
Contested Resource : This is always a minor Hook, and it means that someone or something contests the covenant's control of one of its resources, and typically an adventure to secure the resource is required once every five years or so.
Monster : As a minor Hook, a powerful creature lives nearby, and is too powerful to be defeated immediately. As a major Hook, the thing lives inside the Covenant.
Politics : As a minor Hook, the covenant is deeply involved in Hermetic politics. As a major Hook, it's deeply involved in mundane politics and will have to dodge Quaesitor investigations.
Poverty : As a minor Hook, the Covenant only has the cash on hand for day-to-day matters and will need an adventure to find funds for anything big. As a major Hook, the covenant basically has no mundane resources at all and even getting daily food will take adventures.
Protector : Always a minor Hook, the Covenant is responsible for protecting something like a village, magic grove or weaker covenant.
Regio : As a minor Hook, there is a regio near the covenant but not inside it, and the magi don't know what's in the regio. As a major Hook, things live inside the regio and occasionally come out and cause trouble. If the regio isn't a Magical one but of another realm, that's another minor Hook.
Rival : As a minor Hook, someone is working to undermine the covenant. They can be weaker, so long as they can still cause problems worth telling stories about. As a major Hook, they are trying to destroy the Covenant and have the resources and power to do so.
Road : As a minor Hook, the Covenant is on an important mundane road, river or trade route, so people often show up. As a major Hook, the road is a mystical trail of some kind, so the visitors are usually magical beings.
Superiors : As a minor Hook, the PCs aren't in charge and don't have access to all the covenant resources, but can't be ordered around. As a major Hook, they can be given orders and must obey.
urban : As a minor Hook, the covenant is in a small market town which it does not rule. As a major Hook, it's a major city (and still unruled by the covenant).

Aura : As a minor Boon, the entire covenant gets a stronger magical aura, making magic easier. As a major Boon, only a limited part of the covenant does. (You do this because it's not safe to be in an extremely powerful aura all the time.)
Buildings : Always a minor Boon, there is an additional large and important building on the covenant, like a tower or library or gatehouse.
Fortifications : As a minor Boon, the place has fortifications enough to fight off an assault but not a siege. As a major Boon, it could even withstand a heavy magical assault or siege.
Hidden Resources : Always a minor Boon, the covenant basically has extra vis sources or books or whatever hidden somewhere on the grounds, and the PCs need to find it.
Prestige : As a minor Boon, the covenant is regarded well for some reason and has a good reputation. As a major Boon, the covenant is really famous, one of the oldest or most potent, and has a truly amazing reputation.
Regio : As a minor Boon, the covenant is inside a magical regio with several entrances. As a major Boon, you can only get in if guided by a native resident.
Seclusion : Always a minor Boon, the covenant very rarely gets any visitors at all except for Redcaps.
Wealth : Always a minor Boon, the covenant has shitloads of mundane resources.

A later book would go and rework this system, making it more flexible (and, of course, complex). I happen to like the reworked system, personally, but its list of Hooks and Boons is much bigger.

Next time: Magic.


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Hipster Occultist posted:

So if Mages can live for centuries in Ars Magicia, how does the game change if the players make it to modern times?

Short version: It looks very, very strange indeed, because Ars Magica doesn't subscribe to the metaphysics of Mage and the Consensus. The world just works on Aristotelian physics and metaphysics.

Ars Magica 5th Edition: The Core

So, Ars Magica magic is divided into two types: Techniques, what you're doing, and Forms, what you're doing it to . Verbs and nouns, basically. There are five Techniques.

Creo ('I Create') is the magic of making things that exist independently into better things. These things are called "substances", and basically they're stuff, as opposed to qualities of stuff. Creo can make a rock, it can't make blue. Creo can heal, because a fixed thing is superior to a damaged thing. Creo can create, because a thing that exists is superior to a thing that doesn't exist. Natural things (plants, animals, fire and so on) have simple forms, so they're easy to create and heal. Natural things made by magic are always perfect examples of their kind, and magic can heal a natural thing even if the caster has no idea what's wrong with it. Artifical things, though, like bread or books, have complex forms, combining several natural forms, and creating an artificial thing requires skill and finesse (and the Finesse ability) to determine how good it is. Further, you can only fix an artificial thing if you know what's wrong with it - if you don't know what the words inside a burned book are, you can't really bring them back by unburning the book. You'd just get a blank book. You don't have to know how to make it by mundane means, at least - just be familiar with what you're fixing. You can also use Creo to improve things (make a horse faster, for example) or mature them, but not beyond their prime. Magically created objects vanish at the end of the spell, but their effects do not - a created horse's footprints don't vanish with it. Magical food, on the other hand...well, if you eat it, you're going to be hungry again when the spell ends and it goes away. Stuff washed by magically made water is still clean, but someone drunk on magical alcohol sobers up when it vanishes.

Intellego ('I Perceive') is the magic of perception. It gathers information directly from things, not from their appearances (except for Intellego Imaginem, naturally) but from the actual nature of the things. Pretty simple, especially compared to Creo.

Muto ('I Transform') is the magic of changing properties. Muto can give someone wings or change the color of their skin, or turn them into a wolf. It's harder the more extensive the change is, though. And it can't do anything about the properties something has naturally - it just adds properties that mask them. Muto can't kill or injure directly, but can render immobile (say, turn someone to stone) or kill indirectly (turn someone on land into a fish).

Perdo ('I Destroy') makes things into worse things. It's basically the exact opposite of Creo. A thing that doesn't exist is worse than one that does, so Perdo destroys. It can remove the weight from someone or render a fire unable to burn. However, it can only destroy all of a thing's property - it can't be selective. You can't make a fire able only to burn one thing with just Perdo - you'd need Muto, too. First you destroy the fire's ability to burn, then add the ability to burn that one thing. Perdo is easier, though, if the target can naturally lose the property being destroyed - it's easier to kill someone than remove their weight, since people die but don't naturally become weightless. Plus, you can't permanently remove something that can't be naturally removed. It breaks the limits of magic. Perdo also can't make something better - it can't sharpen a sword, even though doing so involves removing metal. It can't remove the ability to be hurt, since that would be improving someone.

Rego ('I Control') lets you change the state of a thing into any state it can naturally have. Since all things naturally have location, Rego can move them. It can't make an animal become younger, because mature animals can't naturally become young, and can't make them older, as that would decay them and fall under Perdo. It can, however, make them move, or force a tree to blossom out of season, or carve a block of stone. (A tree made to bear fruit would not produce fruit with seeds, though, as seeds are a new form, potential trees, and would need Creo.) Any change a mundane craftsman could do, Rego can also do, though Finesse would determine the quality. It can also make natural changes they can't, for it doesn't have the limitations of time, tools or skill.

We'll talk about the Forms in a bit, because I'm going to talk about how each technique interacts with that Form. Instead, let's talk about the Limits of Magic. The Order is well aware of all of the limits, but that doesn't stop them from trying to surpass them. No one has yet, but if someone managed it, they'd be as famous as any Founder.

The Limit of the Divine states that Hermetic magic cannot affect the Divine. Any magic that tries just fails. That, everyone agrees, is why Hermetic magic can't do anything about miracles, and also is why magic can't do anything to the transubstantiated bread and wine at Mass. Agents of the Divine in the form of saints and angels are protected from magic to an extent, but are not completely immune. As a rule, if a being has a will seperate from God's, it can be affected by magic in principle, if not practice. Only direct action of God is immune.

The Limit of the Essential Nature states that any magic which alters the essential nature of a thing must be maintained, and when it lapses, the thing will return to its natural state. Thus, Muto magic must be maintained, but the effects of Rego magic can last beyond the spell itself. The essential nature itself cannot be changed. Hermetic magic may completely change how a thing looks, but not what it is. The essential nature of a thing depends on what it is. All humans are essentially human, mortal creatures with reason, senses, motor skills and the ability to reproduce. The basic body shape is also part of the essential nature, but bits can be cut off. Men are essentially male, women essentially female, and some people have other factors in their natures. Some people, for example, are essentially blind, while others are merely blind by chance. As a rule: if some disability is taken as a Flaw at chargen, it's part of your nature. If it's acquired later, it's not.

Those are the two Fundamental Limits. There are Lesser Limits, too - things that are impossible for Hermetic magic but might theoretically not always be.

The Limit of Aging states that natural aging cannot be halted or reversed, but only slowed and mitigated. Neither can the effects of natural aging be removed. Most magi suspect this derives from the Limit of the Essential Nature.

The Limit of Arcane Connections states that without an Arcane Connection, Hermetic magic cannot affect a target that can't be directly sensed by the caster. This is widely seen as a flaw in Hermetic theory, especially as Intellego magic is much less tightly bound by this. For example, it can determine if people are beyond a wall which the magus can see, even though Perdo magic can't touch those people until the magus is aware of them.

The Limit of Creation states that Hermetic magic cannot permanently create anything without employing vis. This limit affects all Creo magic, but because Creo magic does not violate the essential nature of what it makes, when vis is used it can create permanent things. No one is sure if this limit derives from the Limit of the Divine or the Limit of Essential Nature. Some think it's merely a flaw in Hermetic theory.

The Limit of Energy states that Hermetic magic cannot restore one's physical energy and fatigue, nor one's Confidence. Most believe this is a flaw in Hermetic theory.

The Limit of the Infernal states that Intellego magic is useless against the Infernal realm, revealing only what demons want you to believe, not the truth. Optimists say this is because of a flaw in Hermetic theory, while pessimists believe it is because of the Limit of the Divine. Moderates say it is because of the Limit of Essential Nature, and that deception is in the nature of demons, so magic only detects their deceptions. Heretics point out that because of this Limit, it cannot be proven that God is not, in fact, just a very powerful demon.

The Limit of the Lunar Sphere states that Hermetic magic cannot affect the lunar sphere nor anything beyond it. Most believe this is due to the Limit of the Divine. However, since the lunar sphere and the celestial spheres beyond have very little that anyone cares about, no one is really bothered by this one much.

The Limit of the Soul states that Hermetic magic cannot create immortal souls, and so cannot create true human life nor return the dead to life. Most believe this derives from the Limit of the Divine, though a significant minority believe the inability to raise the dead is just a flaw in Hermetic theory. Animals, lacking immortal souls, can be created. Magical beings and fairies are believed not to have immortal souls, and some spells appear to create them, but some magi believe those spells merely summon existing beings. Angels and demons, being nothing but immortal souls, cannot be created.

The Limit of Time states that Hermetic magic cannot alter the passage of time. The past cannot be affected, and the future can only be affected by changing hte present. This also means that Hermetic magic cannot scry on the past or future. Most magi believe this derives from the Limit of the Divine.

The Limit of True Feeling states that some humans possess a love, friendship or faith that Hermetic magic cannot touch. (If a Virtue or Flaw is involved, as a rule, it counts.) Magi agree that this must derive from one of the two Fundamental Limits, since most emotions can be affected by magic, but they cannot agree which one it is.

The Limit of Vis states that Hermetic magic cannot change the Art to which raw vis is attuned. Most magi believe this derives from the Limit of Essential Nature.

The Limit of Warping states that Hermetic magic cannot affect the changes caused by prolonged exposure to powerful magic, known as warping. Wizard's Twilight is a manifestation of this warping. Most magi choose to believe this derives from the Limit of the Divine because that would mean magic is a manifestation of Divine power. Others say, however, that it is merely derived from the Limit of Essential Nature.

Vis, of course, is raw magic power in physical form. It's always associated with a Technique or Form, taking the shape of some associated matter. When used, it loses its power and is destroyed in an appropriate manner, unless the vis is transferred to an artificial receptacle. Vis has many uses in Hermetic magic, and is often used as a form of currency. One unit of vis is called a pawn. Ten pawns are a rook, and ten rooks are a queen. A queen of vis is a legendary amount - few magi ever have anywhere near that much at any one time. Magi often wear vis sources openly, to show that they are ready to respond to threats.

Next time: Magic in practice.


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: The Core

Animal is the magic of animals. Animal spells can't touch human beings; Hermetic theorists aren't entirely sure why. Knowing Animal magic helps to resist the attacks and poisons of animals. The spells can affect both the mind and body of animals, and things made from animal materials.

Creo Animal is good for healing animals, creating animal products, summoning or creating living animals (and, with proper skill in other Forms, even give them magical powers such as firebreathing) or age animals to maturity. At the truly highest levels, which few magi ever reach, it can return a dead animal to life.
Intellego Animal can sense animals, read their minds and memories (though a dog tends to remember way more about scent than, say, appearance or sound, so you may not always get what you want), read the history of animal products or even speak to animals.
Muto Animal grants animals or animal products new abilities or qualities. If you know the appropriate form, you can also transform anything they're carrying (so Terram to transform a horse and its barding).
Perdo Animal is normally not something most animals have a defense against. It can cause pain and damage, destroy corpses, cripple or age animals or even, at high levels, simply kill them or remove some property of the animal such as weight or aggression.
Rego Animal can ward against animals, control the bodies and minds of animals, manipulate items made of animal products, protect people from animal attacks or manipulate the emotions of animals.

Aquam ('Water') is the magic of water and liquids of all sorts. Knowing it helps resist drowning, thirst and direct attacks made of water. For purposes of spells, the amount of water determines whether it is an individual, a group or whatever. An 'individual' of water is a pool about five paces across and two paces deep at the lowest point. Natural liquids such as olive oil or fruit juice are 'individual' at a tenth of that, and processed liquids like beer are a hundredth that. Corrosive or dangerous liquids are a thousandth. Poisons are by dose.

Creo Aquam can create water, though it will have no lasting benefits if drunk. Works fine for washing, though. It can create corrosive acids and create other natural liquids, poisons, and water in various forms.
Intellego Aquam can cause your senses to be unaffected by water (so you could see clearly through muddy water), scry on water, learn the properties of a liquid or even speak to a body of water. Poison detection is one of the easier things to do.
Muto Aquam can transform liquids, but not if they're in someone's body without Corpus or Animal. Still, it can convert any liquid to any other kind of liquid, liquid into solid or gas with appropriate requisites, and so on. The more unnatural the thing transformed becomes, the harder it is.
Perdo Aquam destroys liquids. It can dry things, or at higher levels remove properties of a liquid (such as the ability of alcohol to intoxicate). You can remove the liquid from inside someone's body by targeting a specific part of their body, but it takes Corpus or Animal. Very nasty trick for bypassing armor.
Rego Aquam can force water to become ice or steam, ward against magical beings of water, make water move in specific ways or even ward against mundane water, like a spell to keep you dry in the rain. The more violent the thing you want the liquid to do, the harder it is.

Auram ('Air') is the magic of air, wind and weather as well as gas in general. It helps to resist suffocation, drowning and damaging weather. 'Gas', however, is a misnomer - it's a modern concept. Auram affects air as a phenomenon - wind, odor, poison...that's all qualities of air . Lightning, rain and snow are also qualities of air.

Creo Auram can create weather phenomena, though it is much harder to do at ground level, since that is very unnatural for weather. Noxious stenchs and poison gas can also be created. It is particularly tricky to create things utterly divorced from their natural context (such as shooting lightning from your hands).
Intellego Auram can cause your senses to be unhindered by air (so see through fog or hear in a windstorm), sense properties of air, such as if it's safe to breathe, or even speak to bodies of air.
Muto Auram transforms the properties of air, and with proper requisites can convert air to other elements or materials.
Perdo Auram can make air unsafe to breathe, destroy air and weather or weaken weather.
Rego Auram can control existing weather, ward against creatures of the air, ward against weather or control bursts of wind. Very handy.

Corpus ('Body') is the magic of the human body. It targets human corpses and the bodies of creatures that look human as well as living humans. Since natural philosophy states that these things have nothing in common but appearance, and human statues aren't Corpus, Hermetic theorists tend to be puzzled by Corpus. Corpus helps protect against damage from being punched and getting sick, but not getting old.

Creo Corpus accelerates healing, heals wounds, preserves corpses from decay, enhances the body at high levels, helps to deal with the problems of aging and can, in a very limited sense, return the dead to life. The body will have no soul, may dissolve into nothing, and is not truly alive, can't learn and even in the best cases has no personality unless possessed by another being, but the body at least moves around.
Intellego Corpus can locate people, sense information about the body or speak to corpses.
Muto Corpus transforms people, though someone who spends a lot of time in animal shape will start to act like an animal or even lose their identity if weak-willed, despite the fact that the mind remains unaltered. It can grant unnatural powers, change appearances, harden the skin to harm, turn people into animals or plants (with Animal or Herbam requisites) or even solid objects or air (with Terram or Auram).
Perdo Corpus causes direct harm. It can cause damage to the body, cause pain, destroy corpses, harm the senses or ability to move, cause fatigue or disease, destroy the senses, or at high levels even kill or remove properties such as weight or solidity.
Rego Corpus can ward against magical beings associated with Corpus, control body parts or the body as a whole, allow levitation or flight, teleport people or raise the dead as zombies.

Herbam ('Plant') is the magic of plants and trees, including dead wood and linen. It protects against harm by wooden weapons, herbal poison or starvation.

Creo Herbam creates and heals plants, though any food created is only nutritious if it is permanent - sustenance otherwise vanishes with the food. Living and dead plants are equally easy to make, though treated products such as linen or cooked vegetables are harder. Furniture and clothing is harder still. It can also ensure plant growth, speed a plant to maturity or prevent plant disease.
Intellego Herbam can grant knowledge about plants, locate plants or speak to plants.
Muto Herbam can change or modify plants or plant products, turn plants into plant products, awaken a plant to consciousness (with Mentem) or cause a plant to bend or twist rapidly. Standard Muto stuff, really.
Perdo Herbam rots and destroys plants or plant products. It can spoil food, too. Destroying living wood is somewhat harder than dead wood, but possible.
Rego Herbam can control living or dead plant material just as easily, ward against creatures of wood, deflect attacks by wooden weapons, control plants or summon mobile plants, ward someone against plant products, force trees to blossom out of season or weave thread into cloth (or other such things).

Ignem ('Fire') is the magic of fire, heat and light. It protects against flame and cold. Note that heat includes absence of heat - so Ignem can create cold.

Creo Ignem creates light or heat, ignites flammable objects or creates fire from nothing. Brighter light and hotter heat are harder, as is more potent flame, especially in an unnatural shape.
Intellego Ignem senses properties of fire, locates fire, senses heat, learns properties of ash, detects traces of old fires, can allow you to see clearly through fire (but not smoke without Auram) or speak to fire.
Muto Ignem can change the properties of fire, convert one type of fire into another, grant fire unnatural properties or turn fire into other things (with appropriate requisites). It's harder the more powerful the fire is.
Perdo Ignem reduces light, destroys or shrinks fire, chills things or people or can destroy aspects of a fire (such as light or heat).
Rego Ignem wards against creatures of fire, controls fire in natural or unnatural ways and moves fire. The more powerful the fire is, the harder the spell.

Imaginem ('Image') is the magic of the senses. Natural philosophy refers to this as 'species'. All things give off species for each sense, though those of touch and taste do not travel far and those of sight require light to reach people. Imaginem spells affect the process by which species are produced, rather than the species themselves. Thus, the species created by an illusion are not, themselves, magical. Imaginem cannot create solidity, merely the illusion of solidity which can still have things put through it. Touch-based illusion is more effective at changing the feeling of what is already there. Imaginem only changes appearances, not truth - a fire made to seem cold can still burn. Imaginem helps protect against confusion, deafness or nausea caused by sights, sounds, smells or tastes. Imaginem cannot affect light (that's Ignem) but can alter what light allows you to see. Mimicking specific things requires Finesse.

Creo Imaginem creates or restores images. It doesn't make real things, just the images of them. The illusion may feel real, but it's not and has no true substance - you might feel a solid wall, but any real effort will go through it. More complex illusions (speech, movement, clear and legible text) are harder, especially if the movement or sound has to be at your direction or the image is very intricate. Illusions made this way can affect any or all of the senses, with more senses being harder.
Intellego Imaginem may detect illusions, allow the use of your senses at a distance, memorize images you encounter or enhance your senses. (For example, seeing small objects or seeing in darkness.) Clairvoyance or clairaudience are quite handy; taste at a distance, not so much.
Muto Imaginem can alter the images of real things. You can change the sensations of an object (make a coin seem hot, say, or a leaf look like a rock). The more you change about an image, the harder it is, and if you want to make it resemble something specific, you need familiarity with what you want to mimic. It cannot overcome the social effects of the Gift, but may offset them slightly by granting noble bearing and so on.
Perdo Imaginem can destroy illusions, dull the ability of a thing to affect the senses, or render an object unable to affect the senses. (Invisibility is the inability to affect sight, for example.) Destroying shadows, however, is Creo Imaginem - they are caused by light being blocked by a physical body. Note that invisibility must be maintained - destroying the image of a rock works for a second, but the rock continues to put out species after that, since new images are constantly generated.
Rego Imaginem may change where an image appears to be - making a rock look as if it is six feet left of whare it actually is, say. It is harder to affect a moving or changing object, though. It can transmit images to one or more senses this way, or make objects appear to move rapidly.

Next time: More magic!

Forms 2

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: The Core

Mentem ('Mind') is the magic of mind, thought and spirit. It's what you use when you want to affect the 'bodies' of the incorporeal, such as ghosts, because those are maintained purely by the spirit's will. Mentem helps resist persuasion, deception and temptation.

Creo Mentem can heal and improve minds, but it can also create thoughts, emotions or memories in the minds of others. Such creations interact normally with the target's mind and can end up changed in the process, of course.
Intellego Mentem can sense the state of a mind, sense emotions, translate speech, divine whether a statement is true or read thoughts and memories. It cannot translate written text, just take the meaning from the mind of someone who does understand it.
Muto Mentem can change memories, force animal emotions and instincts onto humans, or even make a mind or spirit solid, though that is very hard and requires appropriate requisites. It may also grant others the supernatural senses that Intellego spells sometimes grant.
Perdo Mentem can destroy memories or emotions (though since emotions return, you want to make the spell last for a while in that casE), diminish mental capacities, cause insanity or even, at the high levels, simply shut down someone's mind entirely.
Rego Mentem can ward against ghosts and spirits, control and alter mental or emotional states, control a person's actions or summon ghosts.

Terram ('Earth') is the magic of earth, stone and solid objects. It protects against damage from stone or metal weapons as well as mineral poisons. Earth is easiest to do magic on, followed by, in order, clay, stone, glass, metal and gemstones.

Creo Terram can create earthen materials, with difficulty going up based on the material, though elaborate shapes or unnatural properties are harder. Creating gold is a fairly easy spell.
Intellego Terram doesn't care about materials. It gives information on the properties of objects, where they are, what they're made of and so on, and at high levels allows you to talk to natural or artificial rock. (Natural rock: a rock. Artificial rock: a statue.)
Muto Terram gets harder the higher up the chain a material is. It changes properties of earthen materials, converts them into each other or other materials and causes objects to grow or shrink.
Perdo Terram destroys earthen materials. It's very simple.
Rego Terram wards against creatures of stone, controls and moves earthen materials or wards against earthen materials. It's also where you go for generalized telekinesis of objects.

Vim ('Power') is the magic of raw magical power, refining and controlling magic. It's metamagic, really. And the magic you use on powerful critters of the magical, faerie, divine or infernal realms. It helps to resist Twilight or damage caused by your own spellcasting (but not your own spells).

Creo Vim is able to create false shells that fool Intellego spells, block them or blur out their readings, taint things with magic or cause Warping.
Intellego Vim detects spells, vis and auras, discerns the nature of vis or active magic and can trace powerful or recent magic.
Muto Vim alter the parameters of spells. It's not easy to do, and it only works on spells while they're being cast, not while they're already active. And it's very hard to do offensively. And it can't be done on spontaneous magic, just formulaic or ritual magic.
Perdo Vim hides magic from being detected, dispels magic, weakens magical beings or spellcasters and weakens arcane connections. It ain't easy, though.
Rego Vim wards against demons, angels, faeries or magical beings, sustains or suppresses spells for a while, creates conduits to shoot spells through without arcane connections, contains spells for later and moves vis between containers. Also, Aegis of the Hearth.

Next time: Cool shit in Mythic Europe.

The Church

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

I really want to play Great Ork Gods.

Ars Magica 5th Edition: The Core

There's all sorts of cool shit in historical Europe that you can mine for Ars Magica game stuff! The game loves sidebars suggesting how historical shit can be brought in. And sidebars in general. Here's a very important one!

See, the Church is important. While Church doctrine probably will not come up all that much on its own, the Church will. Sacraments might come up - for example, suppose a number of grogs and covenfolk decide they want Confirmation, but since they live at the covenant, they've never had the chance. Time to go talk to a bishop and find a way to get them through the catechism without the covenant being tried for heresy. Perhaps a relatively pious magus seeks confession and is assigned a pilgrimage in penance, without the use of magic. Perhaps a newly-pious covenfolk begins to have horrible dreams of drowning. These dreams are trying to get him to get baptized, but he dies before he can be, and a friend of his dreams of him burning in hell as a result. Now, the PCs must get everyone in the covenant baptized to placate the friend...and perhaps even find a way to baptize the dead guy posthumously. (Hey, it happened before. Pope Gregory the Great convinced God to baptize Emperor Trajan posthumously, though God reportedly told him not to ask again.)

And of course there's Saints, the most common form of divine intervention. What happens when a saint becomes interested in a covenant and tries to guide them towards God's will...while the Magi desperately try to prevent a Dominion aura from springing up and weakening them. What if a local priest wants the magi to pay their tithe, since...well, legally they're still required to do so, it's just that in practice no one ever asks them to. What do magi do when confronted by true miracles of God?

And that's before we get into the nobility! What if the local lord asks for your help in keeping costs down and entertaining his liege when he comes visiting? What happens when a local, rather hostile lord leaves town for a while and his wife comes to ask you for help managing the fief? What about when a shapeshifter tries to infiltrate noble houses for some nefarious purpose in the form of a dancing bear? Or when the local talking stag comes to ask you for help because nobles are hunting it? Hell, suppose a magus is the fifth son of a noble and unexpectedly becomes the new lord due to his four brothers all dying. The Order doesn't allow that! What do you do? After all, if he abdicates, war will happen. What about when a local lord raised his sole child, a daughter, as a boy in order to ensure she inherited his lands? The girl has settled into the role and is now the lord of the manor...but she's expected to marry a woman and carry on the line. She comes to your covenant for help.

What if you want a low-key story? You could make an adventure of just sending the grogs to the local market and dealing with thieves, avaricious merchants and the troubles of daily life. Don't worry too hard about getting history wrong, though. It's just a game, and most of your player probably won't care. If they do, just either declare that the wrong detail has never been wrong and is true, or retcon shit. No biggie. Alternate history's cool. Just keep in mind - the PCs are the main characters, and the story revolves around them, their troubles and their covenant. Their actions should determine what happens. Ars Magica is very big on the PCs being special and important.

The End!

All right. Where do we want to go from here? I'm going to be focusing on cool player options and goals. I have access to most of the books, but some aren't available in PDF. So we can talk about : the True Lineage Houses of Hermes and their secrets ( Houses of Hermes: True Lineages ), the power of God and its impact on you ( Realms of Power: The Divine ), Mystery Cults ( The Mysteries, Revised Edition ), the Mystery Cult Houses ( Houses of Hermes: Mystery Cults ), more depth on Covenants ( Covenants ), the power of Hell ( Realms of Power: The Infernal ), mercantile life ( City and Guild ), the lost magic of the past ( Ancient Magic ), the Societates Houses ( Houses of Hermes: Societates ), France ( Lion and Lily: The Normandy Tribunal ), academic life ( Art and Academe ), the realms of magic and magical beings ( Realms of Power: Magic ), the other spellcasters of Europe ( Hedge Magic, Revised Edition ), the Faeries ( Realms of Power: Faerie ), nobility ( Lords of Men ), other rival spellcasters of the world ( Rival Magic ), the Church ( The Church ) or the Middle East ( Cradle and Crescent ), Germany ( Guardians of the Forests: The Rhine Tribunal ), a book on various grand goals a magus might have ( Hermetic Projects ) or Greece ( Sundered Eagle: The Theban Tribunal ). I'm working on getting ahold of the Transylvanian Tribunal book.

What do you want to hear about?


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

1d4 roll on those votes says...

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Realms of Power: Infernal

First up, we're just briefly going to define some terms. EVil, for one. Evil is the lack of good - it is a privation, a negative. This is based on Catholic doctrine as laid out by Saint Augustine. All evil is negative, not positive. The Infernal Realm and evil are synonyms, despite one being a location and the other a quality. The nature of the Infernal is the sum total of all opposition to the desires and needs of people, and the source of all suffering. Evil can be divided into three types.

Moral evil , AKA sin, is the act of free will against the order of God, and the action that results from that. Failure to act when you should is moral evil, too. Moral evil is objectively evil, preventing you from realizing your full nature. It's not evil because God firbids it; God forbids it because it is evil. Physical evil is that which deprives you of some natural good. Anything that causes harm, whether injury or sickness, thwarting of desire or preventing spiritual development is physical evil. Sickness, poverty, oppression, death, mental suffering - that's all physical evil. It's not the same as sin. Experiencing suffering is a physical evil but not a sin. Causing suffering is moral evil, and therefore sin. The last kind of evil is metaphysical evil , limitations or lacks caused by your own nature. Many hold that it is not true evil, for it is negation of a greater good. Predatory animals must kill to eat. Desert climates are hot and cause suffering. Humans cannot breathe water. This is metaphysical evil, and none but God can be held accountable for its existence. (Drowning, as a note, is not a physical evil, as a result.) The purpose of magic, for many mages, is to exceed their own limits and thus overcome metaphysical evil. This is why the Church is often wary of magic, for the only being that is without metaphysical evil is God, and attempting to become like God without God's assistance is seen as a potential act of immense hubris.

Anyway, now that we've defined our terms, we know that moral evil is caused by free will and physical evil by the actions of demons or free will. The Infernal realm, as the embodiment of evil, is a twisted reflection of God's creation. It is parasitic upon the divine light, for God granted free will. Were it not for humans and free will, the Infernal would be harmless. Of course, some parts of the world are tainted by Hell. These infernal regiones are divided into Tartaran Regiones, which are places of pure hellfire, which burns horribly and is especially painful to the sinful, and Abyssal Regiones, where the gifts of God are withdrawn, and life is maddeningly dull and will-sapping. The power of the Infernal can warp people just as magic can, and such warping tends to lead to obsession with sin and unnatural abilities derived from sin.

Vis can be found in Infernal regiones, and vis can be infernally tainted. The least dangerous kind of Infernal vis is vis infesta , which is not especially dangerous to use save that any botched spell while using it botches even more than normal. Vis sordida is really a weak distillation of evil itself, and it actually provides more power than normal vis when used. On the other hand, it makes spells more likely to botch and taint you with Infernal warping. (Infernalists, of course, are safe from both negative effects of these types of vis.) Vis prava is the worst of it, found only in strong Infernal auras. It automatically causes spells to check for botch when used, making botches ten times more likely. Also, it warps those who study it and taints anything it is used for. It is vaporized by Divine auras, at least. Of course, in the hands of an infernalist, vis prava is extremely potent and has no real downsides. Very nice.

Let's see...moving on, there is one trick that sinning can get you: power. Sin feels good , you see. It is an act of self-indulgence. By ritually engaging in sin over the course of a season, you may accept Infernal warping into your soul in order to regain confidence and power. Even those without a Confidence score can do this, making it fairly powerful. Of course, the more sinful and tainted you are, the worse sin you need to commit. This is especially easy in "tarnished" auras, Infernal auras that draw out a particular type of sin.

So, now, let's talk about the Devil. In Judaism, of course, angels have no inclination to evil or 'yezer ra' - they only have urge to do good. Therefore, angels cannot commit sin and no angel could rebel or fall, so the Devil cannot be a fallen angel. Ha-Satan, the Adversary, is that angel which most opposed the creation of humans because he saw their potential to do evil, and who was thus given the duty by God to test and tempt humanity in order to see whether humans fall to sin or remain just. He has the satanim, a group of angels, to assist in this. Instead, the closest that Judaism has to a devil is Sammael, the so-called Poison Angel, who is the incarnation of the yezer ra and the product of the nonexistence which God defined by making a place that existed. Anyway, Sammael is the true Devil, and Lilith is one of his wives, the mother of all demons, after she left Eden because she refused to submit to Adam and later chose to follow and submit to Sammael.

The Christian Devil, Satan, is conflated with the Jewish ha-Satan, and is the Adversary of God, not man. He is also called Lucifer, a fallen angel of light. He fell due to his love for himself over God, whom he tried to replace. A third of the Heavenly Host fell with him, but God hurled them into the Pit, turning them into demons. Basically the same sort of pure evil fella as Sammael. The Islamic Devil, Iblis, is neither angel nor human, but jinn , a creature of smokeless fire who led angels in the name of God. Iblis was made lord of the earth for fighting wicked jinn, but when God created man, Iblis refused to bow before him and was burned by God, cursing him to Hell, along with all who followed him. Iblis became Shaitan and swore vengeance.

So who's right? Who knows? The Jews are partially wrong, at least - some demons are fallen angels, while others are former human ghosts. And some seem to have sprung forth from Hell itself. Celestial demons are those who rejected Heaven, and terrestrial demons never knew it in the first place. Some also claim there are Infernal angels, such as the satanim, who do God's work in Hell, though none are sure who these angels truly serve. In practice, the difference between these groups isn't very large.

Can you play a demon? No. Demons are beings of pure evil who have no good qualities. Any good traits they appear to have are lies - they cannot possess true good, and instead are able to, at best, falsely mimic it in order to better tempt and corrupt humanity. All demons are weak to the sacraments of divine faiths, prayer from the devout and holy relics. In Christian lands, demons cannot take physical form on Holy Saturday, the day between Good Friday and Easter, and no demon may expend their magical might from Holy Saturday until sunset on Easter day. In Jewish homes, if all sins committed in the past year are atoned for in the five days between Yom Kippur and Sukkot, then all demons affecting the family must flee and not return for a full year. And no demon may use their magical powers to affect a Muslim who has completed the hajj in the last year so long as it was properly and devoutly performed. All demons, like all angels, possess a True Name, a secret name that they do not give out easily, for it makes magic easier to perform on them. Of course, many grimoire contain the True Names of demons, so they're not that hard to learn. Demons do have free will, but have all chosen evil and so possess no inclinations to do good, so they are wholly corrupt and any free choice they make is also wholly corrupt.

But, you ask, since I can't play a demon, why do I care? Sure, there's tons of demon stats, but they're for GM use. Well, there's some story hooks. For example - a demon might well take on the form of the son of a local noble, who approaches the noble's retired old advisor to get advice on morality and politics. Why? Because demons lack the quality of prudence, it being a virtue, and the demon wants to take advantage of the advisor's prudence to guide its schemes. What do you do when the lynchpin of a demon's plan is a poor, deceived old man? Or perhaps after killing an infernalist, the PCs find a talking cat caged in the lair. The cat claims to have been imprisoned for some nefarious purpose...in truth, it is the demonic familiar Lickspitten, who would gladly love to be taken as a familiar by a magus. Or suppose a group of Luciferan cultists have summoned some demons but were unable to bind them and were eaten. The demons now prowl the region, causing fear and confusion. One of the local priests has misinterpreted this as signs from the Book of Revelations, since the demons summoned were the textual DEmons of the Fifth Trump, and is now preparing for the end times. What do you do?

But yeah, since you can't play as a demon, what can you do with the Infernal? Well, you can play an infernalist, of course! Hell can grant False Powers, which replicate the abilities of many supernatural powers. But that's less interesting than, say, utilizing Chthonic magic, Infernal power or Goetic binding. We are also introduced to the Mythic Companions. A Mythic Companion takes the same 'character slot' as a magus. They rival a magus in power, and receive double points for any Flaws they take - so instead of the 10 Virtues/10 Flaws limit, they have 21 Virtues/10 Flaws. Devil Children, Diabolists and Summoners are all Mythic Companions.

Devil Children are personally created by potent demons, made for a specific task. They are tragic figures, blessed with mighty Hellish power but doomed to a short life of being manipulated by their demonic parent. However, Devil Children are not damned by birth, and possess the free will to choose good or evil. Most are evil, thanks to the manipulation of their parents, but not all. Some seek redemption. Devil Children are a very high-power form of Mythic Companion, typically suggested for games containing more potent characters.

Diabolists are those who renounce God for Satan, making a relationship with demonic powers in exchange for dark magic. Such people gain Infernal power, learning much of magic and darkness. They practice the maleficia, the dark powers of Hell. Unlike Devil Children, being a Diabolist is pretty much just straight up evil. They're basically Evil Hell Wizards. They may not be particularly malevolent , but they are evil. (The sample Diabolist is a heretic who has turned to evil because he is obsessed with seeking the truth of every mystery, and his pride refused to allow him to believe he was wrong about anything. He was raised by diabolist monks in Glastonbury Abbey who led him into sin and blasphemy, and his pride also won't let him admit that maybe it was a bad idea.)

Summoners descend from the Sho'elim'ov, the spirit-borrowers and necromancers of Jewish history. They were seen as sinister monsters for their abilities to speak to the dead, and the Torah forbids them explicitly. However, their arts have spread in the form of the Ars Goetia, and not all summoners are sho'el'ov. Most are hermits served by ghosts, often envious and prideful rather than ashamed of their gifts. Some are simply born with the knack and learn from the demons and spirits they bind, but most are taught by other summoners. Most summoners are evil, but they don't need to consort with demons - some are merely necromancers, and frankly, that's no more evil when they do it than when a Hermetic does. Most are, however, greedy for power and willing to make unwise deals...though they tend to be good at driving bargains with supernatural beings. Unlike Diabolists, a Summoner is not necessarily damned and evil by virtue of their power.

Next time: We make some Mythic Companions!

Tell me about our Devil Child, our Diabolist and our Summoner.

Cast of Evils

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Realms of Power: Infernal

Calvin Cockscomb

Calvin here is the devilish offspring of the potent demon Adramelach. He is primarily a social character, though he can handle a sword decently well. His real power lies in his nature as a Devil Child. He is extremely charming and an excellent liar, and due to his demonic blood he may change his appearance once a day at midnight. Such changes last as long as he likes, unless he enters holy ground, in which case he reverts to his natural form. He is a proud man, vain and fascinated by fashion. This is how his father controls him, often. (That and his poor memory for names and faces mean that while he's an excellent socialite, he'll often piss people off, and potentially ruin his father's plans, however.) His father has created him for a purpose - likely the destruction or corruption of the noble house he was born into as a minor noble.

Thanks to being of Demonic Blood, Calvin does count as an Infernal being, gaining Infernal Might (and with it, natural magic resistance). He possess two demonic powers inherited from his father: the Withering of Limbs, which lets him merely glare at a foe and exert his demonic power in order to wound them, and the Unbinding Desire, the ability to touch someone and cause them to act on their immediate desires for two minutes. Both are stymied by pretty much any magic resistance, but that's okay. Calvin was designed to handle normal people. Those aren't his only supernatural abilities, however.

Calvin is naturally good at seduction, though there's nothing magical about that - he's just very charming indeed. His supernatural abilities allow him to entrance and hypnotize those who gaze into his eyes, commanding them. He can also command a group of animals and expect obedience, for such is the nature of Adramelach's blood. His final power derives from the same rage that fuels the Withering of Limbs: Calvin has the Hex, allowing him to curse those who cross him. He specializes in causing blindness, but the Hex can even kill, though it's not easy to do. Of course, not all is good for Calvin. He doesn't visibly age or anything...but for every year that passes, he ages two. He's only twelve, though you'd never know it to look at him - he appears to be twenty-four, both physically and mentally. He will die twice as fast as a normal human. Such is the lot of a Devil Child.

If you wanted to make a character like Calvin but without the sheer power of the Mythic Companion, as a Companion you might make a normal demon-blooded character rather than a Devil Child, or perhaps just a Tainted Child character - both receive several of the same benefits, though as a Companion-level character they have significantly less access to sheer amount of power. (A Tainted Child is a normal human born under influence of a demon and granted some demonic mojo. Demon-blooded means one of your parents was literally a demon.)


Preston is a Diabolist...though you'll note, even as a Mythic Companion, he does not have access to the whole of the Maleficia. He has Debauchery and Incantation, the two methods that are used to invoke infernal power, and he's got Psychomachia, Effusion, Consumption and Malediction of the Unholy Powers. He is good at stealing the power of others, controlling objects, cursing people and controlling emotions. He is also the creepiest motherfucker I have ever written. I would not choose this character to be in my game.

See, Preston here is an asshole. He specializes in dark magic against young women. He's really good at it and not much else. His demonic masters have given him unholy skill with women (though he's still not very good at it, thanks to his depression and unnatural air about him). He's half-decent at a few social skills - mostly lying - and not much else. He was tutored by demons, giving him an edge in penetrating magic resistance...and he's decently literate, at least. But really, everything he does that he expects to succeed will involve unholy magic.

The good news is that he's too depressed to do much to people. He is a sad sack of shit and likely to become a social outcast thanks to his poor demeanor and stupidity. He is an evil man, but a petty one, and not useful for much. Do not be Preston. As with Devil Children, you can play a less potent form of the Diabolist as a normal Companion - they don't require the Gift or anything, and anyone can learn the Maleficia if they have proper training. There are whole cults devoted to it. But you'll be significantly less broad in your skill at it than Preston is. A Hermetic Magus can also learn the Maleficia if they wanted, but that's spreading yourself a bit thin. On the other hand: the Maleficia can do things Hermetic Magic just can't, and you don't have to study spells - you can just cast them on the fly.

Adam Zhidkov

Adam's a much nicer, more tragic fellow. As a young man, he fell deeply in love with a woman who saw through the air of magic that hangs around him. Adam lacks the Gift, but suffers from all of its social effects thanks to his natural talent for spirit-summoning. It makes people nervous even if they don't know he can do it. However, his wife vanished one night - except for a few body parts, anyway. This loss drove Adam nearly mad with grief. He's spent years training in the Ars Goetia, hoping that his power could be used to help people. He'd travelled across Russia and Germany, learning much. And then she died and vanished...and he had to find her.

He doesn't realize that he's been getting help from demons. His old mentor was a diabolic summoner, not the kind man he appeared to be. After his mentor's death, the old ghost has become a demonic spirit...but Adam believes he's a normal ghost, one who can help him find his wife's spirit. The association has made people even more nervous about Adam, sensing the evil of the ghost that hangs around him. Adam's an older man, skilled in lying (he is, after all, a necromancer - people get nervous) and other social skills. His real power, however, is knowledge: he knows much about the Realms of Power and the undead, and he can speak several languages and read at least three different alphabets - including rudimentary Hebrew. He's a half-decent apothecary, though not much good at fixing wounds, just sickness...and only if it can be cured by herbs.

And, of course, he is a summoner. He has extreme skill in calling things up, though he's no slouch at binding or commanding what he summons. He prefers to avoid dealing with demons in favor of ghosts, but given the manipulation from his old teacher, the demonic spirit, he doesn't always have a choice. What he's worst at is banishing - it's an area his teacher has deliberately neglected, though his natural talents mean that he's not completely useless at it. Unfortunately, he's quite gullible and trusting despite his genius at academics, so it doesn't look like he'll be free of his impious ally any time soon.

As with the Diabolist, you don't need to be a Mythic Companion to perform Goetic magic. A normal Companion can learn parts of it, but will never be able to learn all of it, no matter what - there will always be some aspect they can't do, and they'll tend to have more than one. So really, it's not very safe to be a normal Goetic summoner. A Hermetic can also learn Goetic magic, though, again, spreading yourself a bit thin there. Especially since calling up ghosts or demons is something you can do with normal Hermetic magic, albeit slightly more difficult.

Next time: Maleficia in detail.


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Realms of Power: Infernal

First, a note. While Calvin and Adam didn't, you may have noticed that Preston had Infernal Reputation. Any infernalist character can begin with Infernal Reputation 1 (or higher, with an appropriate Virtue), and what it does is help command demons and protect against fucking up Maleficia. Handy! Any infernalist may also harvest infernal vis by ritually tainted and corruption a holy object, profaning it and creating a vessel of Infernal power. Most commonly, infernalists do this to the Host, the transubstantiated bread and wine handed out by priests, because it's easy to get. Lastly, all infernalists may empower magic by ritually sacrificing objects or living beings. Including humans.

Onward, to darkness!

The maleficia are, like Hermetic spells, designed in two parts: a Method and an Unholy Power. There's only two Methods, though. First is Debauchery , the performance of an evil ritual which corrupts the body, indulging in sin with such passion that the caster becomes fatigued or even wounded. This ceremony summons the power of magic from within the self, drawing on the passion and desire involved. When used with fatigue, it takes around two minutes to do - not good for combat. Sometimes the fatigue comes from the effort of sin, but often it is merely from the sheer passion of reliving the memories of sin. You can instead choose to hurt yourself, perhaps cutting your flesh to summon emotion and passion via pain - that's about on par with a Hermetic casting for speed. Debauchery may also be extended out to last an entire season, slowing the casting but allowing for greater skill and focus to be brought to bear.

Incantation is the other Method, involving the chanting of words and names of power, pulling magic directly from the Infernal realm. Such magic requires the expenditure of Confidence, to focus the will and shape the maleficium involved. Alternatively, the caster may accept Infernal Warping by committing a sin during the casting, regaining the Confidence used to focus the spell. Incantation has the benefit of allowing the caster to use vis during the casting, though it's not very safe to use any but infernal vis this way, and divine vis simply can't be used unless profaned first.

The six Unholy Powers focus what a maleficium actually does. Consumption ...well, understand: the Infernal cannot create anything real, it can merely twist, corrupt and destroy. Consumption draws on the life and health of others, turning it to evil. When you fuck up Corruption, it tends to deform or mutilate you.

Corruption by Debauchery involves the transformation of flesh, blood and spirit. It may increase strength in battle at the cost of slowing you down, or speed you up at the cost of reducing battle strength. It can tire you to make your strikes more potent, or weaken you to make you tire less easily. It can steal the ability of one person to recover from wounds in order to gift it to another, or boost one person's abilities at the cost of another's, either temporarily or permanently. It may transfer pain from one to another, cause pregnancy, wither plants or animals to cause other plants or animals to grow, or even do the same to human beings at high levels.
Corruption by Incantation involves the theft of life from others to heal and restore. It may boost skills at the cost another's ability, or allow one person to resist aging by cursing another. It can animate corpses or restore fatigue by stealing it from a victim. It can do the same to wounds or problems of age. It can even put the caster's soul into a prepared vessel, saving them from death, though such maleficia are extremely difficult.

Diablerie is the unholy ability to control the supernatural. It is limited by range, unlike the Goetia, but is broader in ability. Fucking up tends to mean getting the wrong demon or freeing a bound demon to do as it likes.

Diablerie by Debauchery involves summoning or resisting the supernatural. It can dispel magic, ward against supernatural beings, see through the eyes of supernatural beings, forge Arcane Connections, perceive supernatural power, scry on supernatural beings, release demons from imprisonment or even create Infernal auras or regiones, at high levels.
Diablerie by Incantation involves commanding supernatural beings and granting supernatural powers. It can grant magic resistance and restore the power of demons, force the invisible visible, bind contracts with supernatural beings, compel the supernatural to manifest or obey, grant False Powers (unholy mimicry of real power), or even, at high levels, utterly dominate supernatural beings and taint vis...or grant the False Gift, the Hellish mockery of true sorcery.

Effusion is the power of the Infernal to control the physical, or perhaps merely an extension of the burning flame and freezing ice of Hell. It controls the elements unnaturally. However, it cannot create living things...or, in truth, anything. It can fan a flame or cause a thing to combust, but not call fire from nowhere. It can summon an object, but not create what does not exist. Fucking up tends to mean losing control.

Effusion by Debauchery controls the warm elements, Fire and Air. It can weaken and soften objects, cause greater heat from fire and greater corrosion from smoke, ignite flammable objects, heat objects or make weather more severe. It can control weather, dry things, ward against weather or even ward against flame and heat at high levels.
Effusion by Incantation controls the cool elements, Water and Earth. It can harden and strengthen objects, enchant objects to contain a maleficium that is released on breaking it, telekinetically move objects, weaken weather, chill objects, change one substance into another, teleport objects or ward against non-living material.

Malediction is curses. Hell is good at curses. Fucking up tends to hurt the caster or their friends.

Malediction by Debauchery destroys objects, causes direct harm to people, causes physical problems, can give disease or, at high levels, even just strike someone dead.
Malediction by Incantation causes bad luck, penalties to specific types of action, curses objects to harm wielders, weakens abilities and, at high levels, can even suppress Virtues and grant Flaws.

Phantasm is the the creation of Hellish illusion. The Infernal cannot create true things, but its illusions are so convincing that they are impossible to tell from the real thing in every way. The Divine easily destroys such lies, of course, and phantasms cannot touch Divine beings or exist in Dominion auras. Further, all Phantasms of a specific caster are weak to a specific thing, chosen when they learn the ability. Should that thing ever touch the illusions, they are destroyed. Fucking up tends to hurt you or make the wrong thing.

Phatasm by Debauchery conjures phantasms or transforms real things into phantasms. Such phantasms can be dangerous to the touch, can grant abilities to the target by changing them, can mask the senses or cause invisibility or silence, grant supernatural powers, or even create apparently living demonic creatures or seperate the spirit from the body at high levels.
Phantasm by Incantation allows senses to be used at a distance, sees through illusion, or even grants visions of the past or future - something no Hermetic can ever do.

Psychomachia is the magic of the mind and emotion, influencing and controlling others. Failure tends to confuse or affect the caster, or manifest in the wrong way.

Psychomachia by Debauchery tarnishes Auras, encouraging those in them to sin, transforms the emotions of targets, strengthens or weakens personality traits, grants temporary personality traits, warps targets or even drives them insane or grants Confidence.
Psychomachia by Incantation can sense supernatural events, allow telepathy, sense emotions, compels targets to act on their desires, or even controls and commands targets, either physically or mentally, at high levels.

Next Time: The Goetia

Ars Goetia

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Realms of Power: Infernal

The Ars Goetia, literally 'the howling art', is supposed to be ancient, descended from the lost secrets of Solomon and the Witches of Endor, of whom the Bible speaks. Those who practice the Goetic Arts are sorcerers to most people - and that's not a good thing to be, the word has connotations of evil and madness. They refer to themselves as summoners or thaumaturgists, which are less stigmatized terms. The Goetic Arts are true Arts, learned similarly to Hermetic ones.

Summoning is the Art of drawing a spirit to your presence. It works on any supernatural being that is incorporeal, and also on demons, whose corporeal forms are made of pure spirit. (Only demons can be summoned despite being corporeal; all else must be incorporeal.) You can, however, summon an entity possessing someone or something - you pull them out of their possessed form. Summoning requires a circle, and most summoners use candles to light it, so they can tell if it breaks easily. Other preparations, such as a star in the circle, chanting or incense, can help focus. You can summon specific spirits, but you need an Arcane Connection to them. For demons, that's usually a True Name. You may also attempt to just generally summon a spirit; this practice is known as scouring and it calls all the spirits in the local area, usually attracting one affiliated with the same realm as the summoner's power comes from, though closer spirits come more often than farther ones. If you use it inside an aura, you get a spirit of the appropriate type. Scouring areas with Dominion or no aura tends to get demons more often than not, as low-ranking demons are disturbingly common in such places. However, many demons can hide their true forms. So it's best to know the area you're working in and what kind of spirits are there.

Depending on how far away what you summon or scour is, it may take hours for it to arrive, or even days or weeks if it's very far away. Still, if you manage it, the spirit appears in the circle. You can hear it, it can hear you and it has to stay there until dismissed, when it goes back to where it came from. It is automatically dismissed at the next midnight or noon, whichever comes first. If you aren't powerful enough, the spirit is not truly bound and you must concentrate to keep it from breaking free to remain or leave as it wishes. While in a circle, a spirit cannot affect you or use its powers on anything outside the circle. However, once the circle is broken, it can do as it likes. You may also will the barrier down to allow magic through if you want. Most summoners bargain with the spirits they summon, making deals for assistance. They may also use their other Arts on the spirit as they desire, and spirits stuck in a circle are weaker against those Arts. Free spirits, on the other hand, will tend to just leave rather than submit to Goetic magic unless they've agreed to it in advance.

Ablating is the Art of tearing away at a spirit, stealing its power for your own. Ablation is always Infernal and it always aggravates the spirits it is used on, for it permanently weakens them. Any spirit that survives Ablation will be an enemy for life - or beyond. No spirit will agree to being Ablated. However, Ablation is quite a potent Art. It can grant you Confidence, boost your natural abilities, heal your injuries, make you resistant to aging, grant you memory and insight that spirit had, give you knowledge and skill, grant you Infernal power (even if the spirit was not a demon), give you spirit powers or extract vis from the victim. All such benefits are permanent, save resistance to aging, which wears off when you suffer an aging crisis. Ablation also earns you Infernal Reputation and warps you. If the spirit survives, it is immediately returned to where it was summoned from, and it will likely seek revenge. Ablation is an excellent way to earn Hell's respect, for infamy is just as useful with demons...and really, it's quite tempting. After all, you're killing the demons anyway - why not seize their power, even if doing so is technically Infernal?

Binding is the Art of chaining a spirit to a person or thing, forcing it inside the target and changing its nature. If a spirit is successfully bound, it cannot leave the target, though it may use its powers and is aware of its surroundings, using the target's senses. Most spirits can communicate with the target, if bound to a person, and may speak telepathically to them with some effort. However, they are essentially part of the target and cannot be detected. A person with a spirit bound into them or the wielder of a spirit-bound item may use the spirit's magic resistance and magical potency. Further, a bound spirit acts as an anchor for other effects, allowing the item to have, say, maleficia bound into it as a magic item. A person bearing a bound spirit may learn skills from it, even supernatural powers if they have the knack, and may even learn to use the spirit's powers. Further, a person bearing a bound spirit does not age; instead, they are warped by the magical power. Binding a demon will earn Infernal REputation. Oh, and you can use the spirit's Personality Traits as if they were your own, and often do so unconsciously. If the person or object bearing the spirit is destroyed, the spirit is released. Breaking an object usually works, but sometimes it must be disintegrated utterly. Animals and people must be killed and cremated, because if they are merely killed the spirit will just pilot the body around on its own. Few spirits will agree to a binding, and they usually expect a lot in exchange. Spirits bound for long periods tend to be very cranky and disoriented when released, and are as likely to attack as thank their liberators.

Commanding is the Art of commanding spirits and forcing them to obey. Spirits that agree in advance to follow commands can willingly choose to let down their magic resistance against Commanding, making it much easier. It's harder if they're not in a summoning circle, too. The spirit only needs to obey until its task is completed, at which point it's free to go back to wherever it was summoned from. There's usually a brief window, however, before it leaves in which a summoner might elaborate on a task and follow up on it without releasing the spirit. For example, 'kill a pig and bring it to me' might be followed by 'roast the pig.' A command has force only until midday or midnight, at which point it must be reissued if the task is not yet done. Again, you have a few minute window to do that in. Open-ended commands thus need reinforcement each day.

The most common command is 'Follow me,' so the spirit travels peacefully with you until you give it another command that will release it. 'Follow me' is the only command that need not be reinforced daily, though if you go somewhere the spirit can't, it is freed. Powerful summoners are often followed by many spirits. Spirits are commonly compelled to answer questions truthfully, raise a sorcerer's abilities or skills for the duration of the command, leave and not cause trouble for the duration, share memories, grant temporary Infernal Reputation, heal the summoner or others, travel to specific places and do things, use their abilities for the sorcerer, return to whence they came peacefully (in which case they cannot seek to harm the summoner until summoned again), or teach the summoner new skills.

Naturally, you may combine orders - 'go to this place and kill this person' is a viable command. However, any command must be succinctly stateable in this form - no complex if/then statements or whatever. Demons are notably crafty and love to twist words and instructions, so unless clearly given orders, they will do the commands as they see fit. Spirits likewise retain discretion but tend to do jobs as they think best. 'Destroy yourself,' for example, tends to be a poor command, as the spirit can go through it extremely slowly and thus free itself when midnight or midday comes. Most spirits demand compensation for being commanded, and those who are not granted it usually bear a grudge, especially if their service has been long.

Next time: Infernal magic for Hermetics!

Black Magic

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Realms of Power: Infernal

Hermetic magic which focuses on the Infernal Realm is nigromancy, black magic. It is sometimes confused with necromancy. Magi usually refer to it as diabolism or dark magic, though. Dealing with demons is against the Code, and displaying Infernal powers is usually seen as proof of it. Spells that summon demons are seen as terrible and criminal, and hard to defend in court. Of course, not all black magic involves Infernal powers - you can use it to kill demons. While this is technically breaking the Code by dealing with demons, no one's going to prosecute you for it if you're defending yourself. Probably, anyway. Most magi after the purging of Tytalus focused only on destruction of demons with Perdo Vim or wards with Rego Vim, but it's been three centuries. People are starting to get over the old superstitions. Other applications are starting to pop up.

Some magi have made a point of pushing the boundaries of the Code by becoming demon hunters. The Order has no official position on such actions, and rulings have been made both for and against them. Generally, it is seen as a crime to anger demons but a laudable act to kill them. One group of demon hunters in the Order call themselves the Venatores, or Hunters. They also sometimes refer to themselves as the Apotropaic Magi, those who ward off or combat evil. They do not train their apprentices in their ways; rather, they seek those magi troubled by demons and offer to teach them the ways of the Venator. Venatores can of any House, tend to be at least a decade or so out of apprenticeship (but not always) and often specialize in Vim magic. It usually takes at least a year to learn what a Venator has to teach, and once it's over, they leave. No more formal contact is had. The Venatores have a poor reputation due to their obsession, and any demon hunter is likely to be called a Venator even if they don't strictly have the training.

The Quaesitores have deep reservations about Venatores, feeling that delving too deeply into knowledge of demons and the Infernal realm, even in the name of killing them, makes you susceptible to corruption. Second, everyone knows they antagonist demons, and no one wants the Devil to turn his full attention on the Order. One of the most infamous Venatores, Rudolphus of Bonisagus, was actually the subject of a Wizard's March in 1151 when he antagonized enough demons to endanger the Order itself. Venatores may be distrusted by the Order, but Hell absolutely hates them...and respects (or, more properly, fears ) their power.

The Venatores are masters of Vim magic, utilizing it in Apotropaic spells. Two spells, in particular, are known to every demon-hunter worth their salt - the Demon's Eternal Oblivion, which strips demons of magical might, and the Circular Ward Against Demons, which wards against them. Both, however, suffer from the fact that they need high levels to be of much use - and the Eternal Oblivion needs good Penetration to even land. However, the Venatores have developed other, more... questionable spells.

Creo Vim can be used to restore a demon's might, as Perdo destroys it. Of course, no Venator would ever use it, but infernalist magi tend to. More importantly, it can create temporary Arcane Connections to demons, allowing them to be more easily tracked or harmed by magic. Still, better to force the demon's True Name out of it - or to find it in a grimoire.
Intellego Vim can be used to speak with demons, which can sometimes be useful.
Muto Vim may convert Infernal magic into fire or other things, destroying it, or bind demons within objects. Very useful for the Venator who finds themselves unable to kill immediately.
Perdo Vim can weaken Infernal magic and, of course, tear the infernal power out of a demon. It can also exorcise possessing demons.
Rego Vim can summon demons - and there are Venatores who do. Why not bring your enemies to the battlefield you prepare? It can purify infernal vis as well, though imperfectly, and it may aforce demons to obey commands. Sure, you can't force the truth out of them with Intellego magic - but with Rego? Well, that's another story. Many Venatores learn the art of commanding demons in order to find their weaknesses by their own tongues.

Suppose a magus wishes to learn Infernal magic, though? There are other things that can be done than hunt demons. Some magi practice chthonic magic , which is associated with the Infernal realm not due to being diabolic but due to associations with underworld gods and spirits of darkness. Chthonic powers are only ambiguously Infernal, so more sinister magi can practice them without being accused of diabolism. A Chthonic magus is not warped either by Magical or Infernal auras and may use Infernal vis safely. However, his magic appears tainted and unholy when investigated by Divine or Infernal powers (but not Magical or Faerie ones). This quite useful for demon-hunters to learn, as well as wardmasters, summoners and necromancers. Chthonic magi also gain access to the special spell criteria normally used only by maleficia, and may utilize maleficia in the casting of ritual magic. By ritually committing sinful acts, they may also improve their laboratory work. (Typically, this is done via blasphemy or idolatry, not the sort of sin that most demons encourage.)

Some magi have learned to adapt Goetic magic to Hermetic usage, utilizing Rego in place of the Goetic arts and Vim in place of the lore that Goetic summoners study. Further, by studying the Goetic arts more deeply, a magus may bind a spirit as a familiar. Finally, Goetic magi learn how to use the Goetic arts to improve spells that target Goetic spirits.

More tragic is the False Gift. False Magi have done nothing wrong, in and of themselves. Their Gift is simply not the true Gift, but an unholy mockery of it. The False magi typically doesn't even know that's the case for a time...and when they discover, well...if they go and confess of the sin of using their demonic Gift, becoming cleansed of sin and exorcised of Infernal influence...the magic is gone. Forever. They can no longer use the knowledge they have, for they have no Gift. Oops.

In fact, all False Powers work that way. Hell really likes handing False Powers to people and watching them squirm as they realize that if they stop being evil, they lose their powers - even if they want to use those powers for good. Even if they didn't actually sell their souls but just got tainted by, say, something their parents did.

Next time: Infernal Traditions!


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Realms of Power: Infernal

Infernalists tend to gather in groups. Cults, covens, sabbats. Traditions. It increases the amount of evil they can do and the power they all have. They tend to be organized by a single demon, who gains status as they gain power. It's mutually profitable! Companions or magi who have been touched by evil can join a Tradition and learn supernatural powers from them after character creation. That's how you go and get the rest of the Maleficia, for example - or pick up other powers later. Well, one of the ways. As long as you have Infernal taint, you can study with the Traditions and gain their powers. Now, the Gift and other supernatural abilities will interfere with your studies...including new ones you learn, so you have to be careful. But each Tradition has a few favored abiliites, which can be studied without any interference at all. However, a character can only belong to a single Tradition. Ever. Period.

Some Traditions are not, in theory, evil. They are misguided, deluded by the demons that organize them into believing they are doing good - or at least not doing evil. However, because they use Infernal power, evil is all that comes of their actions, and the demons tend to nurse their sinful traits and resentment towards the Divine. The Luciferans are a misguided Tradition, favoring the powers of Debauchery, Diablerie, Malediction and the ability to sense passions and emotions. Many Luciferans do not truly believe themselves to be infernalists at all, for they believe that God himself speaks to them. They blindly obey their "God", committing sins at his orders - and they remain sinful, though they know not what they do, for the deep pride they take in their special relationship with God. They pray for selfish miracles, believing themselves to be chosen. Some of those who learn of the Infernal nature of their God accept Lucifer as their true savior, renouncing the true God and believing that Lucifer and the demons were cast from Paradise unjustly, and that their rightful place is to storm the throne of Heaven. These Luciferans believe that they will be invited to Heaven with Lucifer when he seizes it.

The Luciferans blasphemously claim that the first of their number was the apostle Saint Paul, stating that his vision on the road to Damascus was sent by Lucifer. They claim Paul as their patron saint, and his image often appears in their iconography and rituals. They believe that by following his example and the "true" faith while hidden within the "false" Church, they are doing the will of their god. Luciferans learn to summon up aspects of their god, communing for instruction and blessings. They also learn to curse their foes. Because of their belief in the reversal of evil and good and demons and angels, the upper echelons of the Luciferans believe that which is sinful above ground is virtuous beneath it, so their Infernal rites are done in caves and catacombs beneath towns and cities. The Luciferans are strongest in Germany, Austria and Bohemia, especially in cologne, Krems and Vienna. They have tried to infiltrate the French Cathars as well.

The Strigae were once a pagan cult of the god Pan. When it appeared that Pan died somehow, a few demons came to replace him and usurp his cults. These groups became the night witches, the strigae, variations of whom appear everywhere in Mythic Europe. Many believe that their nightly journeys to perform Infernal rites are nothing but dreams, that the Devil has merely tricked them - and thus that they need not confess these sins, for they never committed them. After all, has not the Church declared their "night rides" to be nothing but illusion? And the Church does know, doesn't it? Each group of strigae is led by a senior infernalist who has a special relationship with a demon and calls the others to the meetings by sending out dark dreams. The Strigae specialize in Debauchery, Effusion, Phantasm and the dark art of mass ceremonies, by which great evil power can be gathered.

Incidentally, a related tradition of witches in northeastern Italy is the stregoni, secret cultists within a village. By day, they are normal villagers. By night, they take the form of owls to meet with their sisters, and the male witch that leads them, the strego. They seek to cause misfortune and chaos. Fortunately, they are opposed in this by secret dreamers, the Benandanti, who meet in dreams and wield swords of fennel. The Benandanti engage in dark dream battles with the stregoni, and if they win, the stregoni cannot do their dark magics on the village. The Benandanti, however, must remain secret - for they too draw power from a foreign realm, often the Infernal. They hold views contrary to Church doctrine. And you are born to be Benandanti - those born under the caul are destined to become the nightwalkers who fight the stregoni.

The Witch-Hammers are a rather unusual Tradition - infernalists who battle other infernalists. Of course, demons do fight other demons. The Witch-Hammers were formed when a letter circulated in the early 600s containing advice on how to battle pagans and their dark magic. The letter contained rituals meant to counter such magics, and it repeatedly quoted the famous verse of Exodus, 22:18: Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. The Witch-Hammers, named for the first sentence of the letter, which refers to the hammer of the witches, do not realize they perform evil magic. They do not communicate with each other. They merely anonymous copy and forward the letter to others, as the hammer-letter (as it is known) instructs. (Yes, it's an evil chain letter.) The letter's key message is that it is no sin to torture or kill heretics and pagans. After all, God does not punish the good, so if you make a mistake, it merely speeds them on to paradise. God would intervene to protect the innocent from pain. The letter's rituals are dark magics, teaching the powers of Ablating, Incantation, Psychomachi and Summoning.

Other Traditions are plainly corrupt, evil and not at all worried about it. Demons tend to see focusing on these as wasted effort - they hardly need the help to damn themselves - but some like to manipulate them to corrupt others. Some corrupt Traditions do not realize they serve Hell but do evil for philosophical reasons, while others embrace their masters. The Dark Gnostics , for example, are a Gnostic sect that preach that doing evil has moral value. They worship God but do evil in his name, becoming infernalists. The Ophites are a Dark Gnostic group that worship the serpent of paradise as a symbol of God, reveling in original sin as the freedom to follow natural impulses. The Brethren of Free Spirit believe that by giving way to desire in the name of God, they do God's will, despite the depravity. The basis of such ideas is that God is everywhere, and so God was the serpent of Eden, God is the Devil - all things, in fact, are God. So therefore every person is God. Thus, they need obey no law for they are each the Truth and can do no evil. Such heretics tend to be well-educated, understanding but rejecting the Church. They learn Diablerie, Incantation and Phantasm, as well as the art of hypnotizing and controlling people with their eyes.

The Dread Host , on the other hand, believe that by serving Hell in life, they can earn status there in death. They work to become Infernal ghosts and thus demons when they die, typically by binding demons as servants or even into their bodies. They venerate and worship those members of the Dread Host who succeed in their aim of becoming demons after death, binding them into Infernal relics and enslaving the living to their superiors and the dead spirits. They perform dark, macabre rituals for the amusement of the dead in order to remind others of the brevity of life. The Dread Host are a dark and terrible cult, to which belong such luminaries as the entire family of the Count of Mecklenburg . They specialize in Binding, Effusion, Incantation and Summoning.

The Mulhidin are a group of devil-worshippers from the part of Persia occupied by the Seljuk Turks. They worship a demon who claims to rule the world, saying that God merely made the world and does not care about it. Their 'god' is Enais, the Peacock Angel, who freed man from slavery and extinguished Hell. However, he also released Hell's demons and it is the task of the Mulhidin to control and command these spirits, forcing them to labor and thus preventing them from doing evil. Unfortunately, the demons they command have corrupted them, and they now use the power of demons for selfish purposes. They seek comfort, not salvation, and torment the Muslim tribes of Persia and Armenia. Hell allows them to exist because their work enslaving demons encourages them to sin, and also they make the local Muslims jealous of their prosperity, encouraging them to sin. All Mulhidin are infernalist, though only a rare few are true sorcerers.

You may have noticed that these guys sound a lot like a stereotype of Yazidis as devil-worshippers. The book knows this. It has a sidebar.

What do you know, cultural sensitivity!

Non-magi are not the only ones seduced to Infernal ways. There are Infernal traditions within the Order of Hermes, too. For example, the Damhadh-Duidsan . When Pralix marched on Damhan-Allaidh, she was joined by a Gaelic wizard named Damhadh-Duidas (roughly translated: 'malice-writer') who was of the same magical tradition. He could carve strange runes which cursed and stole life from his foes, healing him in return. Many believe he joined Pralix to betray her Ordo Miscellanea, but she did not trust him and forced him to prove his loyalty. Two battles were won decisively thanks to him, but he didn't fight in the final offensive (perhaps because Pralix held him in reserve so he could not betray her) and, well, he didn't ever betray Pralix. Despite his allegiances, he gained the respect of his allies and joined the Order as part of House Ex Miscellanea. There, he taught two apprentices, to whom he never revealed the true, Infernal nature of his power. He nursed a deep grudge against Pralix, however, and many believe he caused her death.

Those few of the Damhadh-Duidsan who practice the infernalism of their ancestor do so in secret, and most do not know he was an infernalist. They may know their bloodline was tainted, but not that infernalism still exists among them. Many have no desire to be diabolists, after all. The infernalists among them specialize in Consumption, Incantation, Malediction and shapeshifting. This makes them hard to detect, for many among the pure Damhadh-Duidsan possess giant's blood or shapeshifting abilities, for the tradition descends racially from the giants of Scotland, Scandinavia and Iceland.

The Ordo Vagorum , or Order of Vagrants, are a religious order of clerks who chose not to become priests, but still wander and claim the alms and priveleges due to priests. This is sin, and few seek pardon for it. Rather, they exist in mockery of the Church. Most are mere buffoons and satirists, or hedonists who do not realize that they are on the path to infernalism. The secret society of infernalists within them is quite modern - perhaps 50 years old at most - and seeks to make their ways look more attractive to people. They hold loose ties to the Order of Hermes, for many Redcaps have joined the Goliards, the entry-level members of the Ordo, though neither group knowingly associates with the other. Rumors of a secret society among the vagrants are assumed by both the Ordo and Redcaps to refer to themselves. Still, it's hard for two secret groups in the same population to not rub shoulders, so perhaps there's more than meets the eye there. The infernalists of the Ordo Vagorum specialize in Consumption, Corruption, Debauchery and Psychomachie.

Lastly, the Witches of Thessaly . The greatest resistance to the Order when it first formed came from Thessaly. The Thessalians worshipped sinister gods practicing sorcery and necromancy as well as cursing. The Hermetics who sought them could not defeat their tomb-guardians and were forced to abandon the war against them. The Thessalians never joined the Order, and a tiny number of them still survive in Greece today, known as the Daughters of Erichto by magi. They use Faerie portals to travel throughout the Cambunian Mountains of Thessaly. They follow pagan rites, but many have been corrupted by dark ways, and the line between true Thessalian practice and demon worship is thin, so many have become infernalists.

When House Ex Miscellanea approached them almost a century after their war with the Order, a few joined the House, as the Dominion had been steadily weakening the Thessalians and the Ex Miscellaneans weren't asking them to swear loyalty to any Founder. Other traditions similar to the Thessalians have been seen throughout Europe, such as the Volkhvy shamans of Russia, some of whom have taken up sorcery and call themselves Koldun. Some speculate that House Diedne suffered the same taint. Trianoma, as a note, was from Thessaly, and her sister Veia stole some of Bonisagus' secrets and fled, perhaps to establish her own lineage elswhere. Some Thessalians have left Greece to settle elsewhere, too. The Thessalians who practice dark ways specialize in Cthonic magic, Commanding, hexing others and Summoning. Some Thessalian magi keep in touch with their sisters outside the Order, learning Infernal powers from them.

The End!

What's next? Choices are: the True Lineage Houses of Hermes and their secrets (Houses of Hermes: True Lineages), the power of God and its impact on you (Realms of Power: The Divine), Mystery Cults (The Mysteries, Revised Edition), the Mystery Cult Houses (Houses of Hermes: Mystery Cults), more depth on Covenants (Covenants), mercantile life (City and Guild), the lost magic of the past (Ancient Magic), the Societates Houses (Houses of Hermes: Societates), France (Lion and Lily: The Normandy Tribunal), academic life (Art and Academe), the realms of magic and magical beings (Realms of Power: Magic), the other spellcasters of Europe (Hedge Magic, Revised Edition), the Faeries (Realms of Power: Faerie), nobility (Lords of Men), other rival spellcasters of the world (Rival Magic), the Church (The Church) or the Middle East (Cradle and Crescent), Germany (Guardians of the Forests: The Rhine Tribunal), a book on various grand goals a magus might have (Hermetic Projects) or Greece (Sundered Eagle: The Theban Tribunal).

Hedge Wizards

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Hedge Magic, Revised Edition

This book is all about hedge wizards - the wizards who, these days, are seen as far too weak to be impressed into the Order, by and large. (Part of the reason for this is that the most potent hedge magic lineages were forced to join or killed long ago.) Of course, some hedge wizards do join the Order, adapting their magical tradition to Hermetic ways so they can learn the Parma Magica, though the Order frowns on such converts maintaining close ties to their former comrades, for fear that the Parma will be shared. Of course, not all hedge wizard traditions require the Gift. The unGifted simply cannot join the Order (except Redcaps). There's no specific rule against it, but most magi just don't like the idea. (It is, as a note, a mid-level Intellego Vim spell to detect the presence of the Gift in someone.) One problem with Order converts, though, is that hedge wizards can't use certamen, which makes them a target for bullying, since they are considered the automatic losers of any certamen dispute. Some hedge traditions are not members of the Order but are allied to it. This isn't usually controversial, unless these allied servants are Gifted, mainly because those sorts of hedge wizards might learn the Parma by observation. Most hedge wizards, however, are neither converts nor allies - they live in the shadow of the Order.

As a note: Hedge traditions are generally bound by the Limits of Magic; they may break, at most, one Lesser Limit - never a Greater one. They also suffer the Limit of Magic Resistance . No hedge tradition has a general resistance to magic. It is unclear why, but it's very convenient for the Order! If a hedge tradition ever broke this Limit, the Order would ruthlessly destroy them, because their control of Europe's magical scene is entirely based on their own Parma Magica and ability to shrug off most spells from lesser wizards. Perhaps this means the apparent Limit is merely the effect of the Order hunting down anyone who broke it.

Some Hermetic wizards may find it profitable to study hedge traditions and integrate their special strengths into Hermetic theory. It's not easy - they need to find sources of information, study them over the course of several seasons, invent spells based on them, and continue this process until they reach a complete understanding of what they are studying. Once they do, they have a breakthrough, developing a new twist to Hermetic theory. this is one major reason a magus might seek out hedge wizards without trying to kill them - some hedge traditions have very valuable things to teach, or even ways around the Limits of Magic.

We start with Elementalists . It has long been known that the world is made of four elements: Earth, Water, Fire and Air. Some ancient men and women had power over spirits - these became the summoners of the Ars Goetia. Some, however, developed their powers of medicine, theurgy and natural philosophy in order to affect the physical world, not the spiritual. These are the Elementalists, who command the raw elements of nature and even cause them together in the form of animate beings, called elementals. It is said that these arts developed in the Mediterranean area, in the Middle East and North Africa but spread to Europe with the Arab conquest of Iberia. Elementalists have tended to hide thei abilities, appearing as scholars or holy men. Over time, their traditions of scholarship have earned them a better reputation than their summoner cousins, and by 1220, they look more like academics than most hedge wizards.

Elementalists do not require the Gift, interestingly. They may be played as normal Companions (lacking the Gift), Gifted Companions or Mythic Companions (receiving the double-costed Flaws benefit and some free virtues). We're going to talk about Elementalist magic here! There are three main types of Elementalist: Elemental Physicians , whose power over the elements is based on special understanding of the four humors of the human body, and whose tie to the elements is based on medical skill. Elemental Philosophers , whose aptitude for elemental control is tied to understand the physical world and philosophy, and whose tie to the elements is based on philosophical knowledge. Elemental Theurgists whose skill with the elements is tied to experience with spirits and magical beings, and whose ties to the elements are based on study of the magical realms. Tese elementalists are able to use their power to affect different things.

Elementalists study, naturally, four Forms, based on the elements. First is Elementalist Air , the study of the supernatural qualities of air. Elemental Physicians may use Elementalist Air to affect the sanguine humors of the body, typically associated with lightheadedness and diseases of the blood, such as quotidian fever. Elemental Philosophers may use Elementalist Air to affect natural weather phenomena and animals with a predominantly sanguine temperament, such as birds. Elemental Theurgists may use Elementalist Air to affect air elementals and supernatural beings associated with air or the Auram form. Air elementals tend to be smart but physically weak. Regardless of what study the Elementalist has, Elementalist Air also protects against harm by air, such as asphyxiation, poison gases or bad weather. Being more Sanguine (carefree, optimistic, etc.) helps.

Elementalist Earth is, of course, study of earth. Elemental Physicians use it to affect the melancholic humors, including feelings of sadness or diseases such as constriction. Elemental Philosophers use it to control the earth and its minerals, as well as animals of melancholic temperament such as cattle, mice or badgers. Elemental Theurgists use it to affect earth elementals and supernatural beings associated with Terram. Earth elementals tend to be strong but stupid. It protects against damage by earth, such as suffocation, injuries by metal or stone weapons, crushing blows or falling. Being more Melancholic (depressed, reclusive, gloomy, etc.) helps.

Elementalist Fire is the study of fire. Elemental Physicians affect the choleric humors, which inspire anger and impatience, or dry, coughing diseases such as quartan fever. Elemental Philosophers control heat and flame, as well as choleric animals such as horses or predators. Elemental Theurgists control fire elementals and supernatural beings associated with Ignem. Fire elementals tend to be fast and socially skilled. It helps protect against damage by fire, heat or blinding light. Being Choleric (angry, hateful, etc.) helps.

Elementalist Water is the study of water. Elemental Physicians affect the phlegmatic humors, associated with listlessness and wet, phlegmatic diseases like flux. Elemental Philosophers control liquids and phlegmatic animals such as fish or reptiles. Elemental theurgists control water elementals and supernatural beings associated with Aquam. Water elementals are cunning and tough. It protects against damage by water, such as thirst, drowning, poison liquids, falling onto water or being crushed by waves. Being Phlegmatic (jealous, worrisome, envious, fearful, etc.) helps.

These forms are combined with one of the Elementalist Techniques, of which there are four. Summoning focuses on drawing elements from the area, often into a prepared medium or shape. Elementalists may claim to create these elements, but there's always enough in the area due to nature that they can just draw it out, even if it appears to be creation. The bigger a summoned mass of elements is, the harder it is to summon. Elemental physicians use summoning to alter the humors in the body, curing diseases, though not physical wounds. They may also use this to cause disease by imbalancing the humors, and their power is harder the larger the creature they're trying to affect is. They must touch their target. Elemental Philosophers conjure physical elements, and may exert more power to make them more dangerous and damaging, or harder and tougher. However, the materials summoned are raw and untreated - you can summon silver, but not a coin. They may also summon animals native to the area. Elemental Theurgists call forth elementals from pure base material, generating these temporary magical beings.

Controlling dictates behavior of summoned beings or objects, as well as examples of the element found in normal life. Elemental Physicians use it to control the emotions of humans by manipulating the humors of the body, as well as commanding supernatural creatures that have become part of the body, such as disease spirits or possessing demons, in the same way that a Theurgist can command elementals. Elemental Philosophers can command the movements of natural materials, and can command organic materials as well, though less well. (This can even be used to reduce damage in combat by slowing the weapons down.) They may also command animals. Elemental Theurgists command supernatural creatures associated with the elements, including elementals, forcing them to obey commands or banishing them.

Divining locates and communes with the elements. It is less costly to use than Summoning or Controlling. It may sense elemental vis, as well as detecting manifestations of an element and granting understanding of them. Elemental Physicians can recognize imbalanced humors, sense and diagnose illnesses, or use a deep and magical understanding of the body to help treat illnesses and wounds over time. Elemental Philosophers sense natural materials and their qualities, allowing them, for example, to seek out gold or silver. They may also understand the thoughts and memories of animals by touching them. Elemental Theurgists can sense elementally aligned supernatural beings, and may mentally communicate with them via touch, or even read the memories of unintelligent supernatural beings.

Refining allows an Elementalist to improve their target by purification or to break it down by combining opposed elements. It is a slow, seasonal affair rather than immediate magic. It can, incidentally, be used to make a potion equivalent to Hermetic longevity rituals, protecting against aging problems. Elemental Physicians can make such potions for others, too, or potions that increase vigor and skill, boosting a character's natural abilities. (This is much easier for them than Hermetics.) Elemental Philosophers may extract vis from auras, increase or decrease the magical power of supernatural animals, or move vis around. Elemental Theurgists may restore the power of supernatural beings or drain them for vis.

Elementalists tend to gather in societies of likeminded thinkers. The Apostles of Apollonius claim descent from the first elementalists, who were influenced by Greek philosophy. They claim the first elementalist was Apollonius of Tyana, a miracle worker in the 1st century AD. His followers are largely ascetic Christians now, who believe their work to be pious and natural. They are rare, but can be found anywhere in Europe, though most often in the Mediterranean. They are seen by the Order largely as curiosities. They specialize in elemental theurgy, focusing on summoning and control of any of the four elements.

The Ikhwan as-Safa' , or Brethren of Purity, are a secretive Islamic sect that teaches the path to God is to attain purity via knowledge. They were founded by Islamic scholars in Persian Basra during the 950s, combining Greek philosophy and Indian and Persian classical texts. They are a variant sect of Isma'ili Islam, and their potential heresy means they tend to lie low a lot. They claim that all human souls derive from God, and will return to be part of God at the end of the world. They refuse to teach magical powers unless students also study philosophy and theology. They are philosophical elementalists, focusing on Summoning, Refining and any of the four Elements. While all members must be literate, but they're willing to teach the pious Isma'ili Muslims how to read. They will, however, accept literate non-Muslims.

The Tulab Ibn Sina are some of the best doctors in the Islamic world. They are known to Europeans as the Students of Avicenna, and they use their knowledge of elementalist medicine to serve rulers and maintain hospitals. They were founded by Abu Ali al-Hussain Ibn Abdallah Ibn Sina in 980, in the Persian city of Bukhara. Ibn Sina was a genius, developing his magical tradition from ancient writings of Persian, Arab and Indian wizards mixed with Greek philosophy as well as his own studies of medicine. When the Sultan of Bukhara, his patron, died, Ibn Sina used his magic to escape the ensuing struggle for the throne and fled. His Gift forced him to keep moving throughout his life, teaching many students. He only taught Gifted Muslims, however, or those Muslims who showed natural aptitude for the Elementalist arts. He would often dismiss those who were not righteous Muslims. All Tulab Ibn Sina, to this day, are Muslim. They also tend to be wealthy. They are elemental physicians, focusing on Summoning, Divining and any of the Elements.

Study by Hermetic magi of the elementalists is not difficult - the elemental Forms and the elementalist arts are very close to each other. Study of the theurgic, philosophical or medical traditions might allow a Hermetic to convert their ability to use mundane knowledge to boost magic into a Hermetic ability, while study of the Arts themselves might allow for a Hermetic to learn both the Art and Hermetic magic, using the two to empower each other, unlocking the ability to create elemental vis in the lab and summoning elemental targets without need for Arcane Connections. If this were done, it's likely that there would be little in the way of negative repercussions, and most elementalists would likely be invited to join House Ex Miscellanea...though summoning's poor reputation might lead some to wish them destroyed.

Next time: Folk WitcheS!

Tell me about our Elementalist. What's their focus? Are they a Mythic Companion, a Gifted Companion or an unGifted Companion?

Sample Hedge Wizards

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Hedge Magic, Revised Edition

"Jean" of Paris

Jean, born Jeanne, is a woman with a cause. As a youth, she was fascinated by the scholars of Paris, and she resolved to become one of them. When her Gift manifested itself, she was aided by an older professor, who taught her basic literacy and Latin, the rudiments of elemental medicine and also how to hide her gender. He introduced her to the true world of academics, starting her on the path she now walks. She followed in his footsteps, becoming a Magister in Artibus, one of the most educated and skilled scholars in the world. While at university, she discovered the works of Galen, devouring them.

Now, Jean is determined to surpass the ancient Greek. She is not a genius, nor an amazing researcher...but she does know more than a little about lying, plotting and sneaking around. Her plan is quite simple: focus on her magical studies and use them to treat patients and appear to have amazing medical skills. In the meantime, use her position as a teacher of medicine at a prestigious university to get access to and "borrow" the research of others, collating and compiling it while adding her own touches. She will, she has sworn, surpass Galen. Of course, it helps that her Gift is particularly gentle, meaning that the other scholars do not innately distrust her.

Jean, via her mentor, belongs to the Brothers of Medicine, an organization within the European academies that is similar to the Muslim Tulab Ibn Sina. To be a Gifted Elementalist, you need to belong to a society, you see - you need a teacher. Due to her Gift, she has innate access to all of the arts practiced by her society, getting those free - very, very nice. Still, it was quite expensive to master the magical arts of the Elementalists, leaving her with few XP for anything else. She's a pretty great liar, at least, and absolutely amazing at Artes Libarales and Latin. This combined with her knowledge of medicine and chirurgy along with her teaching abilities mean that Jean is a valuable aid to any Hermetic - she's far more educated in the ways of academics than most Hermetics, and can teach them, as well as providing ample healing ability thanks to her magic.

Now then. Folk Witches. Folk witches are a widespread tradition, and many small towns have a folk witch. They use potions and spells, can fly, can turn into animals. Almost all of them lack the Gift, so the common folk are unafraid to approach them for help with supernatural problems or disease. Most but not all folk witches are women, and the Gifted ones are treated with fear and suspicion. The Church frowns on folk witches, whom it largely views (inaccurately) as remnants of pagan cults, but by and large folk witches are just ignored. A few priests may believe their power is Infernal and some have prosecuted for heresy, but folk witches are not Infernal at all. Note that widespread Church witch hunts would not begin until centuries after Ars Magica takes place.

Folk Witches are not organized; they are, at most, part of local covens. They tend not to leave the places they were born and many never meet other covens in their lifetimes. Their insular natures mean both that folk witch innovcations tend to be lost when the innovator dies and that covens often have wildly divergent practices and capabilities. The Order of Hermes is aware that folk witches exist , but they tend to arrogantly view the witches as poor peasant mages of no importance or threat. They are less aware that some witches are Gifted, and know very little about the specifics of folk magic.

Folk witches do magic via three main methods. Firstly, potions . Within the witch's kitchen, they may brew potions, which allow them to grant their supernatural powers to others. There usually isn't much benefit to a witch in drinking a potion herself, though. Of course, they can brew longevitiy potions that are as effective as a Hermetic's longevity ritual, so that's handy. Some witches are only able to use their abilities via potions, so must brew them and drink them before they can use the supernatural powers for which they are known.

Second, incantation . The powers of animal ken, healing and second sight may be invoked via incantation, the reciting of a small rhyming poem. The target must be able to hear the poem, and if the witch cannot speak, she can't use incantations to do her magic. If some hostile power erases the witch's memory of the incantation, there is a chance each day of the memory returning on its own.

Finally, fetishes . A folk witch using many abilities must brandish a fetish, a special item that is tied the power. If the item goes missing, the witch can no longer use the magic until it is replaced. Each witch must prepare her own fetishes, and they won't work for anyone else. It takes a full season in the witch's kitchen to produce a new fetish, but you can have multiple fetishes prepared for a single power, so that you can use them if you lose one.

Witches do not practice Arts; rather, they utilize supernatural powers, many of which can be learned by others via other methods. Animal Ken , for example, allows witches to speak to animals as if they were human beings. It grants no ability to command them, of course - but they can influence animals just as they might try to influence humans. It also allows a witch to bind an animal to her as a Familiar, which gains human intellect and aids in kitchen work.

Cursing may be used to curse people whom the witch has an Arcane Connection to, by turning hte Arcane Connection into a fetish or brewing a potion that curses the drinker. Such curses can be widely varied - disease, miscarriage, aging, inducing emotion, inability to speak language, transformation into animals or more. Cursing is very versatile, and the main thing limiting it is, well, that it can't be easily targeted. It takes work to curse someone.

Dowsing allows a witch to seek out objects, people or other things. The fetish required to dowse is, naturally, a dowsing rod. It's quite simple, really.

Flight is the power to fly. It's tiring but it is quite useful. A witch flies at the speed of a horse's gallop and may fly for several hours, though the flight ends the moment she touches ground. It's quite hard for a groundbound foe to fight a flying witch, too. The fetish used to fly is typically a broom, but some witches use buckets, baths or balls of twine instead.

Healing may be used on the witch or another person. It is true healing and can even recover fatigue, breaking the Limit of Energy, but it does cost vis to use. Without vis, the healing power is useless. The dead cannot be healed, and if someone is unconscious from fatigue, their energy cannot be restored.

Second Sight allows the witch to see through illusions and disguises, as well as to see the invisible. It can even see through Hermetic illusions, though not genuine transformations.

Shapeshifter allows the witch to become animals, anything between the size of a robin and a bear. The limit is the fetish - a fetish for shapeshifting is the skin of the animal being turned into. Some folk witches use another part of the animal, such as the foot. Either way, you can only become an animal if you have a ritually-prepared body part from it.

There are several reasons why a Hermetic magus might want to study the folk witches. Firstly, they may learn the art of Subtle Opening - that is, opening the Gift to Hermetic magic without making it harder to learn supernatural powers. It's a minor trick, but a useful one. Those who learn the trick are more powerful, but...well, it can't really help any magus that has already learned magic. It's only good for new apprentices. Still, some may fear a new generation of more potent magi...or interested in causing it. More importantly for many, a magus could learn to break the Limit of Energy, unlocking the ability for Creo Corpus to restore fatigue and Perdo Corpus to destroy it. It makes Spontaneous Magic much more flexible, as loss of fatigue is no longer a dangerous prospect. Magi will be more willing to fight in hostile auras, strengthening the Order against the Divine and Infernal. By studying Second Sight, a Hermetic might improve their Intellego magic, causing Intellego spells to no longer need to pierce magic resistance. This would greatly strengthen the ORder against magical and faerie foes. Finally, by studing folk witch potions, a magus might learn to incorporate ritual magic into a magic item. This would change little save for allowing a powerful magus to send an item rather than go personally to do a ritual.

Incidentally, a coven meets, it is called a sabbat. Sabbats are usually organized based on the solstices and equinoxes. Sabbats are used for grand rituals to brew more potent potions or initiate witches. Covens are created similarly to covenants, but generally less organized and powerful since the members meet rarely and live apart.

Next time: Gruagachan.

Also, tell me about our Folk Witch. Is she Gifted or unGifted? A Folk Witch is always either a Gifted Companion, an unGifted Companion or an unGifted Grog.

Drinky Hedge Wizards

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Hedge Magic, Revised Edition


Greta's a simple woman. She brews beer - and great beer, at that. However, she was trained by her mother in the old ways, too. She can brew potions. She has no real abilities beyond this, but she is amazing at potions. The only real kind she ever learned to make were the ones for finding things - gold, lost objects, vis, it's all very handy for the covenant she works for. That and the fact that, while drunk, she's something of a social butterfly makes her quite handy to have around, if nosy.


Yasha, the Forest Witch, has had a harder life. She is an angry woman, and a vengeful one. The slightest insult can drive her mad with rage. She rewards those she thinks are good, at least, but the people are terrified of her anyway, for her Gift is blatant and terrible, and it is clear to any who see her that she is a terrifying witch. She was taught by a very skilled witch indeed, though when her Gift was opened, the ritual was flawed. Her potions last only a year and a day, so she prefers not to use them.

She demands tribute, instead, from the people around her forest. Her terrifying presence and immense magical skills, especially in the colder months, make people likely to agree. When they see her flying overhead with her mortar and pestle, they know not to stare. They plot against her, but fear being cursed even more - for her curses are terrible indeed. She is not an unkind despot, at least, and the few animals who can bear her presence, such as her trained bears, have been known to help the locals in times of crisis. It's said that she cares for her own. She has few social skills, however, thanks to her Blatant Gift making them rather pointless. Rather, she is a survivor, a tracker and, above all, a skilled folk witch.

Now, gruagachan . The gruagachan are a Pictish tradition, descending from the ancient priests of the god Gruagach. The Picti were native to what is now Scotland, but their people have been forgotten outside of the gruagachan. They are Gruagach's judges, granting blessings and curses, shapeshifters and illusionists of great skill. There is a heavy price, though - eventually, all gruagachan become trolls. The gruagachan are found in Scotland most of the time, and sometimes Britain, Wales or Ireland. They have a long history with the Order - they were bitter rivals of the druids who became House Diedne both before and after they joined the Order, and because of that hatred they joined with Damhan-Allaidh against the Order. After the Schism War and the destruction of Diedne, relations have warmed some, and some gruagachan have even joined the Order, though most have not.

There are both Gifted and unGifted gruagachan, though only the Gifted tend to be trained from childhood. The unGifted are chosen later, and usually are either blessed with Giant's Blood, great size or shapechanging powers. The Gruagachan are the only known speakers of the Pictish language left alive, and it is by their knowledge of the language that they do their magic. Some gruagachan are even able to externalize their souls, preventing their bodies from dying of wounds unless the soul is hurt - but if the soul is even scratched, they die. Gruagach are also aided by fetches, invisible and incorporeal magical beasts, who are especially skilled at watching over things, though they aren't very bright. They are also skilled in the art of creating magical tattoos, which grant powers to those who have them based on gruagach spells.

Like a Hermetic, a gruagach learns spells that mix a Technique and a Form. The techniques are Give , which protects against changes of the body and allows the gruagach to grant things, and Take , which protects against changes of the mind and allows the gruagach to remove things. What is more important are their Forms.

Blessings are always conditional - they last until the target does a specific action, which can be a sweeping prohibition, a general one or a specific one. A spell which takes a blessing may also serve as a geas, only taking affect if the target meets the specific condition. Geasa are always best when they are poetic justice - that makes the spell easier.
Give Blessing provides bonuses to skills or grants Virtues. You can never cast a Give Blessing spell on yourself. Sweeping prohibitions are easy to fulfill and limit the blessing to relatively few situations - for example, toughness that lasts only until you attack someone. General prohibitions are easy to fulfill, such as toughness until you take a medium wound. Specific prohibitions barely limit the blessing at all - toughness that lasts until harmed by fire, say. The more you bless and the harder the prohibition is to meet, the harder the spell is to cast.
Take Blessing nullifies abilities, Virtues and skills. Major virtues are hardest, followed by skills. Natural abilities and minor virtues are easiest. Sweeping prohibitions end the curse easily, such as a stealing of strength that ends when you do something that requires both strength and skill. General prohibitions are not terribly hard to fulfill, such as a stealing of strength that ends when you beat someone else in a contest of strength. Specific prohibitions are very hard to meet, such as a stealing of strength that lasts until you botch a strength roll. If the stolen blessing's terms are particularly poetic, they are harder to resist.

Curses , likewise, are always conditional.
Give Curse reduces abilities and skills, cripples people, disables senses, causes disease or grants Flaws. Sweeping prohibitions are easy to fulfill - muteness until someone says your name. General prohibitions are a bit harder - muteness until someone says the caster's name. Specific prohibitions are hardest - muteness until someone expresses extreme gratitude for your selfless action, say. Curses can be lead as geasa, only taking effect once a condition is met. Poetic justice, again, makes it easier.
Take Curse spells are very dangerous for a gruagach - if you mess up, you suffer the curse you were trying to remove. These spells can determine the nature of a curse and remove curses.

Shape spells alter physical shapes.
Give Shape can only work on the willing, ever, and the target gets a vague idea of what changes are being made. It can give animal abilities by changing your eyes, say, into a cat's, increase body size, turn people into animals, plants or inanimate objects, or even turn people insubstantial.
Take Shape can force victims into foreign shapes or allow the caster to take on the shapes of others. It can turn people into animals, plants, objects or even the insubstantial, cause them to return to their true form, and can allow the caster to take on the physical appearance of someone nearby. It can also turn one animal into another. It's harder to change someone into an unsuitable animal - a brave person is hard to turn into a rabbit, say.

Vision spells control perceptions, the fetch and illusions.
Give Vision can only affect sight and sound, creating illusions. The more complex, the harder it is. However, it can also grant visions of the future or even danger sense.
Take Vision can detect illusions, dispel illusions, detect vis, uses senses at a distance by sending the fetch out to investigate or turn something invisible or inaudible.

The Gruagachan maintain Pictish tradition despite the fact that they are the only Picti left, working as priests of Gruagach even now. They typically gather in small groups, and most are unGifted. Perhaps three Gifted gruagachan might exist in a single area, and the entire tradition is strictly geographically limited. There are, however, a few very similar traditions out there. The Norse have the Trollsynir , who have the same magic but do not use enchanted tattoos. The trollsynir are in fact the descendants of jotnar, who learn magic from their giant grandparents or parents. Many are Gifted, and those that are not are still able to practice some of their magic, which they call trollskap. Because they are strictly family-oriented, their Gift tends to cause less problems - their families have years to get used to it. Trollsynar use the Jotnar language rather than Pictish but otherwise use identical magic. They do not take formal apprentices - it's all family.

The Kolduni are Russian pagan wizards, who like the trollsynir do not use magical tattoos. They do, however, train in the arts of speaking to beasts and herbalism. The kolduni gain power from the worship of faerie gods, and all kolduni are Gifted. Unlike the gruagachan, who care about justice, kolduni are very mercenary, selling their magical powers for food or money. Locals tend to see them as little better than the fae they protect against. Koldun magic is called koldovali, and they use their own magical theories rather than the Pictish tongue. Kolduni do not use the word 'geas', but 'kara.' Many koldun spells require water, and they can learn to have external souls. (Koschey the Deathless is a koldun.) However, koldun external souls tend to be more durable - if destroyed, they do not kill the koldun but merely return the soul to the body. Kolduni do not turn into trolls or giants; rather, they become addicted to Faerie auras and eventually get kidnapped by faeries forever. Kolduni are not literate, by and large.

Hermetics may have reason to study the gruagachan. They might do so to learn the power of Cailleach Magic, which reproduces the same effect as Diedne Magic but, presumably, without the horrible stigmas of Diedne. The most lasting effect of this would probably be the mass recruitment of gruagachan. They may also be studied to learn more about their flexible formulaic magic, which allows the gruagachan to alter their formulaic spells as they cast them. This would change little except make flexible formulaic magic easier to learn and not require a Virtue. Another use would be improving the magical range 'Voice' - the gruagachan can use it without having to perceive a target, so long as the target can hear them. Any magus who managed this breakthrough, solving one of the limited applications of the Limit of Arcane Connections, would likely be hailed as the most famous and skilled theoretician alive.

Next time: Learned Magicians.

A gruagach can be a Mythic Companion, a Gifted Companion or an unGifted Companion. Tell me about ours. (They can be trollsynir or koldun if you want.)

Learned Magicians

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

I've decided to chill a bit on making characters - it's more fun to talk about character options anyway.

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Hedge Magic, Revised Edition

The Learned Magicians have their home in Bologna, one of the biggest cities in Europe. There is a university there, and among its faculty and students, a secret society has sprung up. This society creates magical charms and amulets, studying herbalism, astronomy and alchemy. These are the Mathematici of Bologna, literate and educated people (mostly men) who use their magic to earn money, reward servants and protect themselves. They may perform simple spoken charms, create healing potions or poisons...but their real power is the amulets and chartae, long-lasting protective items. They may strengthen their charms and amulets by calling on creatures from the realms of power, mitigating the dampening effects of the Dominion...at the cost of other problems. Most Learned Magicians do not possess the Gift, though some do. Most, however, simply cannot use most of the magic of their tradition. Learned Magicians do not practice formal apprenticeship; rather, they study under their masters as long as they desire, with no stigma for an adult to continue learning under a master.

Strictly speaking, the magic of the Learned Magicians is similar to that of Hermetics - a Form and a Technique combined. Their verbal charms are fast done and faster ended, the least potent of their abilities. Amulet magic is more potent, coming in two types: chartae and amulets . Chartae are simple - they're one-shot magical devices that can be made relatively quickly, approximately equal in power to a formulaic spell. Amulets are more potent, permanent devices which take more time to make and last for quite a while. Charm magic, incidentally, violates the Limit of Arcane Connection - many spells are able to influence the actions of others without any care for whether the Learned Magician even knows they exist.

The techniques are: Tueor , 'I Guard/Protect', the Art that defends or guards the target from harm. It protects from the Form it is associated with, or protects that form, in some cases. Each charm created guards against a different trouble, and the more general and common the trouble, the more difficult the charm. A charm to protect against weapons is very hard, but one that protects against an iron dagger wielded by a left-handed man is very easy indeed.

Succurro , 'I Aid', is the Art that enhanced pre-existing qualities. It cannot grant abilities that do not already exist - it just improves them. It cannot heal instantly, nor create from nothing, nor cause unnatural modifications. It can improve healing or sight, but not grant wings or see through walls - it just makes people and things better at what they already do. It removes imperfections.

Vulnero , 'I Harm', causes direct or indirect harm. It always harms the target, no matter what. However, it cannot completely remove qualities of a thing. The more completely a Vulnero charm destroys, the harder it is. It's easiest to weaken a quality that is already weak. Vulnero charms are often referred to as curses.

We'll get to the Forms in a bit. First, a note: a Learned Magician can cast spells he doesn't know , if he has them written down somewhere. These books of magic are known as formularies, and they tend to be very poorly organized. First, you need to find the charm you want, which usually takes around ten minutes. Then it takes two or more minutes to read the text and briefly memorize the words. Then you cast the charm. Rinse, repeat.

A Learned Magician may create chartae, simple magical effects tied to an item. Such items take around an hour to make, plus another hour if you leave the desired recipient blank - you have to chart their horoscope and add it into the charta before you can use it. Amulets, far more potent, are never designed with blank spaces - they are made for specific people from the beginning, usually the creator. The use of the horoscopes greatly strengthens these items, especially nativitiy horoscopes, allowing for more potent effects than normally possible with charms. Note that amulets and chartae are not activated at will - they go off when the intended bearer puts them on or affixes them to the proper location. An amulet then continues to go off until it runs out of charges, expending a charge whenever the effect would end. Now, Forms!

Fortunam , 'Luck', is the magic of luck, something Hermetic magic never touches. It reduces bad luck, increases good luck, or the reverse. It is cast on a single target, but incidentally affects everyone around them, as the magic manipulates circumstance. A Fortunam charm that grants luck in combat can distract foes, for example, even though the caster never even knew the foe wold be there.

Tueor Fortunam protects against bad luck...though if the bad luck involves someone with magic resistance, the spell must pierce it. It can reduce botches, allow rerolls of failures, prevent random mishaps or even prevent botches entirely.
Sucurro Fortunam grants good luck - though to apply that luck against someone with magic resistance, again, it must be pierced. It can grant bonuses to events involving luck, bonuses to specific abilities or skills or even give Virtues.
Vulnero Fortunam causes bad luck. It increases botches, penalizes skill or ability rolls, forces rerolls of succesful rolls or even makes normally unbotchable rolls have to check for botch.

Magicam , 'Magic', grants or improves magical abilities, or enhances amulets and charms...or protects against magic.

Tueor Magicam provides protection against hostile magic. It can resist forms of magical damage, dodge magical attacks or raise the difficulty of supernatural powers.
Sucurro Magicam improves supernatural powers or temporarily grants them. It cannot grant Faerie, Hermetic, Divine or Infernal powers, nor social statuses tied to magical abilities. Any magical effects of the granted abilities end when the ability does, though mundane effects do not. It can change the effects and nature of a previously cast charm, recharge an amulet created by the caster, detect vis, provide bonuses to supernatural powers or even grant supernatural Virtues.
Vulnero Magicam supresses or eliminates magic. It can reduce the duration of standing magic or ward against creatures of a supernatural realm.

Salutem , 'Health', is the magic of health and well-being. It involves disease, age and other health problems. It can affect people, animals, plants and even structures - but not abstract ideas.

Tueor Salutem can protect against damage, disease or poison, ward against animals or people and even completely immunize someone to limited forms of harm, though that is extremely difficult. (Mundane harm only - it can't immunize you to magical forms of harm, just mitigate it.)
Sucurro Salutem can make aging less painful, speed recovery from harm, ensure a plant grows well, resolve aging problems or heal the after-effects of poison or disease. It cannot instantly heal any damage, however.
Vulnero Salutem can cause damage or pain, weaken people, cause fatigue or disease, cripple the body or even destroy senses, though that is quite hard.

Learned Magicians may learn to Entreat the Powers , using his knowledge of a realm of power to call on that realm and use it to mitigate the effects of auras from that realm. They can call on multiple realms, but this risks angering the powers, and makes botches worse. They often practice Mythic Alchemy , allowing the creation of alchemical formulas that produce potent reagents which convert one material into another. Mythic Alchemy also allows the extraction of vis from an aura and the movement of vis. The more complex the alteration, the harder the reagent is to create and the more vis is required. They also often practice Mythic Herbalism , the use of magically-touched plants to produce terrible poisons, potions that speed healing and potions which grant various physical bonuses - resistance to damage, resistance to fatigue, ignoring pain, that sort of thing, or even increasing physical abilities.

The Mathematici are hardly the only Learned Magicians. Others exist. The Mythic Alchemists practice the same arts, though they cannot cast from written texts. They derive from ancient Egypt, where alchemy was practiced long before even the Greeks came up with it. Recently, translations of Arabic works on alchemy have become available, allowing Western scholars to rediscover the art. Mythic alchemists are not organized at all, and tend to be trained by isolated teachers. They write in code to ensure only the worthy learn their ways. They cannot cast charms; rather, they create powders (which follow chartae rules but without the astrology) and potions (which follow amulet rules but without the astrology and usable by anyone, but at greater vis cost). They also have slightly more limited magical effects. While Learned Magicians who becomed Warped are touched by the powers they entreat, alchemists instead go mad and paranoid. Most European alchemists are priests or monks, as are some learned magicians.

The Cunning-Folk are primarily herbalists and protectors against the fae, though they do have access to the arts of the learned magicians. They are peasant wizards, ignored by most, even other hedge wizards, and have very low social status. They have no true traditions - they're a mix of wise men and women among the hamlets of Europe, who develop close relationships with faeries. Most are unGifted and rural. They use their charms to help villagers with mundane problems, for the most part, and occasionally to protect against hostile supernatural forces. They use charms and magical devices as the Learned MAgicians do, but their work is not in Latin - it's usually the local language. Not all cunning-folk are literate, but those that are may cast charms from texts as the learned magicians do. Their chartae and amulets are actually bundles of herbs, carvings and other simple devices, utilizing crafting skill rather than knowledge. They need not cast horoscopes, but can. Cunning-folk also receive much poorer training.

What use have Hermetics for Learned Magic? Well, studying it could unlock the secret of quickly-made single-use magic items. This would greatly increase the number of items magi have, creating them even for grogs. It's unlikely that they'd want these for themselves - they can just cast the formulaic spells - but arming grogs with one-shot magic is very potent indeed.

Next time: Nightwalkers.


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Hedge Magic, Revised Edition

The Nightwalkers are an unGifted tradition. Or, rather, their tradition has nothing to do with the Gift - it occurs sometimes in the Gifted, but they gain no special benefits. The Nightwalkers are those who have the ability to roam the world as spirits while their bodies sleep. Sometimes these spirits become material in animal form. The Nightwalkers form militias, using their powers to fight evil, guide the dead to rest and protect the fertility of the living. Sometimes, they are less scrupulous, using their powers to spy and blackmail or steal. There are many Nightwalker traditions in Europe, but they all share similar powers. Hermetics call their ability to travel in spirit form 'ekstasis', or straying. The spirit is called a 'phantasticum.' Of course, Nightwalkers are not all limited to traveling at night - but the name was given to the Benandanti, whom the Order met first, and it fits them well. So far, no Nightwalker group has had sufficient power to be invited into the Order.

Nightwalkers are almost entirely normal, unGifted companions. A very, very rare few might be more, and a very rare few are mere grogs. A true, full Nightwalker gains the power to take on spirit form while unconscious, and may lead others into spirit form. They know how to force themselves unconscious. They possess Second Sight while in spirit form, and while in spirit form bear the clothes and weapons suited to their Nightwalker tradition. They may force their spirit form tangible, and they may harm intangible spirits. If their tradition uses animal or elemental shapes for travel, procession or fertility battle, they may take on that shape and its abilities. They may speak to sleeping people in dreams, and may, with effort, speak to the waking. While a Nightwalker is in spirit form, their body appears dead and is vulnerable. They suffer the social effects of the Gift while in spirit form. They must take part in every battle or procession that their tradition demands, and will do so involuntarily. Any injuries taken in spirit form appear on the body when it wakes. Outsiders must never be told in detail about the battles and processions. While in spirit form, a Nightwalker can be targetted by any spell that targets ghosts or spirits, and may be seen by Second Sight. And they get no special invulnerabilities - anything that'd hurt them normally still does.

Some Nightwalker traditions use weaker, incomplete variants of this power, usable even by grogs. The Half Taltos , for example, are those taltos who failed to defeat their elders in initation battle. The half taltos may harm spirits with ritually prepared weapons, and may perform a brief ritual to gain Second Sight for a time. These are their only powers.

The hamr are Norse, those who possess the power to go into a trance and send forth a spirit form which is tangible and takes the shape of an animal. Their body is vulnerable in the trance state, and will not awaken until the hamr returns. If the body is killed, the hamr becomes a ghost in animal shape. It may then vanish, or it may remain until the battle ends and fight. Most hamr may not exist after the flesh rots from their bones, but some ghost hamr can last indefinitely until they gain vengeance. In any case, the animal form of the hamr possesses the skills and abilities of the animal, but the mind of the warrior. The hamr requires some tool to enter the trance state - alcohol, herbs, whatever. It's a very slow ritual, unlike that of more traditional skinchangers, but it does not require a ritual skin to do. Hamr are not exclusively for combat - they can be scouts, if they are bird hamr, for example.

Sleepwalkers are a variant of the hamr who, rather than send forth a spirit, sleepwalk in their trance state. They appear as a large hybrid of man and beast, made more durable and powerful by the cloak of spirit they wear. They are essentially a variant of the hamr that wears the hamr form like armor rather than leaving the body vulnerable. On the other hand, they are hurt more easily.

Ekstasis is done by most nightwalkers, but it varies in its abilities. Most nightwalkers sleep to enter ekstasis, but some use asceticism or self-mortification and fasting. Others use drugs. The body appears dead while the Nightwalker is in ekstasis, though in truth it does breathe and has a heartbeat. Both are just very, very slow, only noticeable by those with medical skill. The body does not starve or die of thirst, but if left asleep too long, the muscles will atrophy. If the body is disturbed, the spirit may die, though traditions vary in how much harm it causes. The Laplanders die if merely touched, while Benandanti only die if the body is rolled over. Still, the nightwalker never feels what happens to the body, and so is unaware if they are disturbed. Ekstasis is extremely tiring, and nightwalkers are lethargic for hours or days afterward.

The phantasticum may become corporeal or immaterial with focus, and may become invisible at will. Some phantastica are shaped like humans, others like animals. Many can shift between shapes. Again, they possess Second Sight, and their presence makes humans uneasy. Animals can sense them, and dislike them. Horses flee, dogs growl and snap and cats either avoid them or treat them as normal people. Phantastica may use spirit travel, moving almost as if teleporting via various methods - ghostly mounts, running, whatever. Failue to perform spirit travel correctly wakes the nightwalker and leaves them exhausted. You cannot fail certain forms of travel - in traditions where nightwalkers are born with a caul, you can always travel to your caul. In those where they are summoned or led to battle or procession, you can always travel to the location for the battle or procession. You may, if you have one, always go to your True Love or lead someone to their True Love. If you move at normal speed on a route you know, you cannot fail, either.

By great exertion, a phantasticum may communicate normally with people. It is much easier to give messages to the unconscious or sleeping, which are remembered as dreams, though not always very well. Nightwalkers may also call willing people out of their bodies, into spirit form. A corporeal phantasticum may fight material foes, and an incorporeal one can fight immaterial beings. The phantasticum heals as the body does, and the body suffers all wounds the spirit does. Those who lack magic resistance and fight a phantasticum suffer from drowsiness and may fall asleep where they stand. Those already sleeping near a phantasticum in battle will not awaken during the battle.

All nightwalkers take part in fertility battles , in which they face evil forces or rival nightwalkers. If they win, then the crops and hunting are good. Lose, and they are poor. This lasts until the next battle, in either case. Nightwalkers involuntarily answer the summons to battle. Deaths in night battles happen, but it varies between traditions. Benandanti rarely die, but the mazzeri to the south almost all die...though usually only when old and weak. Each tradition has lore explaining why they don't die as often. (Or why they do.) For example, the Hounds of God claim that their deaths make them martyrs, and evil doesn't want martyrs because they weaken it. The Benandanti say that when they die, they improve fertility, which their foes don't want. Most of their foes lack such protections and often die in the battles.

The enemies of Nightwalkers vary; some fight other Nightwalkers. Some fight ghosts. Some fight the Infernal. Ghosts tend to suffer from unquenchable thirst, while the servants of the Infernal tend to either be evil Nightwalkers, minor demons or more potent demonic captains. Occasionally, Nightwalkers do battle outside these fertility wars. They rarely meet while waking, and tend not to recognize each other due to the dreamlike nature of the battles. Nightwalkers return home in slow processions, allowing them to look for trouble in their communities, either fixing them then or when awake. They often take spiritual nourishment from wine, water or livestock, weakening or draining them as reward for their battles.

Nightwalkers also do other processions . Three types. First, processions of the dead, to guide the dead to rest and regulate the movement of ghosts or zombies. Nightwalkers can fight the undead well, and may also intimidate ghosts into fleeing or answering questions. Second, beating the boundaries. These are patrols of the community to look for evil and seek new Nightwalkers. Last, celebratory processions, great feasts and celebrations of victory to regenerate the spirit. Many Nightwalkers also battle evil while awake, perhaps by hunting the Infernal.

Traditions include the Benandanti , the Good Walkers, who are summoned to serve as teens. They battle during the Ember Days, Church feasts, and fight against Infernal witches at agreed-on battlefields. They can fly, and can take the shape of animals or ride animals or tools. In battle, they take human form and fight with bunches of fennel, while their foes use sorghum. The Benandanti are northern Italian.

The Hounds of God are secretive werewolf clans, guided by spirits that make them the virtue of wolves, not the sins of man. Some are born to be Hounds, with cauls or deformities that mark them, and they are approached by a spirit in puberty who will guide them to the battles. In other placess, people are tricked into becoming wolves. If someone toasts the health of a Hound, the werewolf may pass the power on to them by choosing neither to thank them nor share the toast but instead blowing three times on the mouth of the bottle and saying 'As was done to me, so be done unto you.' Usually this is done by elderly Hounds who wish to retire and pass the duty to a family member. Hounds fo battle three times a year - the eve of Saint Lucia, Midsummer's Night and the Pentecost. They raid Hell in the form of phantastic wolves, stealing back the seeds of Earth. (Perhaps they merely go to Infernal regiones, for each country's wolves go to a different Hell.) Hounds fight Infernal foes, who wield iron batons against the spirit-wolves, and sorcerers who wield broomsticks wrapped in horses' tails. Some Hounds possess the power to roam as phantastic wolves when not fighting Hell, as well. They are found primarily in Germanic areas or places with German minorities.

(Incidentally: These guys are based on a real, if 17th century rather than 13th, set of beliefs. )

The Kresniki and Kudlaki are Slavic nightwalkers. Every community has a Kresnik, a protector, and a Kudlak, a fertility thief. Kudlak is short for Vokudlak, which could mean sorcerer, werewolf or vampire. The living vokudlak is a sorcerer, able to curse people and steal fertility. They are Nightwalkers who take the form of black dogs, boars or oxen. They can fly in this form, and if they die, they become a vampire of sorts which continues its role. To prevent this, they must be staked with hawthorn or have their tendons cut behind the knee. Both kresniki and kudlaki are born with cauls; that of a kresnik is clear or white, and a kudlak's is red or black. They are usually trained in their roles by older members of each tradition, and most kresniki first go to battle at the age of seven, though some take as long as 18 or 28. They regularly fight each other. Kresniki take the same animal forms, but dappled in color, and both can take on the form outside the ritual battles. Kudlaks who defeat kresniks are wealthy until the next battle, and many turn to Infernal or Faerie powers. Kresniks can kill kudlaks, but most take precaution to prevent their rising as vampires. Besides, a new kudlak will show up in a year anyway. Kresniks also fight on Christmas and the Ember Days against hordes of vampires or sorcerers, or sometimes foreign nightwalkers. In those cases, the kudlak may show up to help the kresnik.

The Mazzeri of Corsica fight Infernal witches or other mazzeri. They wield asphodel stalks, and they have a second duty: to hunt through the night. Some take animal form, some don't. They must kill one or more animals, then examine them to see what local they correspond to. That local is very likely to die shortly after, between three days and a year. They cannot choose who to kill, or even whether to kill. It is involuntary.

The Taltos are Hungarian. The word actually refers to wandering magicians, but here it means the nightwalkers. Strictly, a taltos is a Magyar shaman with full shamanic powers. However, few such shamans exist now, between Christian conversion, Tremere recruitment and so on, and modern taltos have only the Nightwalker powers. They are marked in the womb by a caul, teeth or some deformity. They are notably hungrier than normal children, especially for milk and cheese, and at the age of seven, they enter a three-day coma, where they babble and suffer fever. In this time, they are visited by an elder taltos in cow or horse shape. The two fight. If the younger loses, they become a half-taltos. If they win, they face other trials. They go on painful vision quests of all sorts, and no record exists of what happens to those who fail. Taltos fight for their village's fertility, either three times a year or once every seven years. They take on the form of horses, bulls or fire, and they face Infernal foes and the dead as well as foreign nightwalkers. They consume enormous amounts of food while waking. Many taltos lose all powers at the age of 15, while some become half taltos, and others retain their powers their entire lives.

So, why would a Hermetic give a shit? Well, nightwalking has already been partially integrated into Hermetic theory. Most believe that the certamen ritual descends from the magic of the witches of Thessaly, but in truth it is based on nightwalker battles. It originates from Laplander shamans who duel in phantastic form, suffering fatigue rather than wounds. A Hermetic who researched the nightwalkers might be able to extend certamen to encompass the full capabilities of nightwalker phantastica. Such phantastica would be able to take any shape while incorporeal, but while corporeal would always appear in a shape reflective of the magus's best magic. Some Criamon who study the nightwalkers might develop a new mystery for their cult, gaining the power to take on the form of a phantasticum without the need for fertility battles. Either way, though, it's hardly a major ability, and most Hermetics don't give the slightest shit.

Next time: The Vitkir.


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Hedge Magic, Revised Edition

The Vitkir are wizards who draw on the power of runes and inscriptions. The word 'vitkir' is a Scandinavian word meaning, roughly, 'wizards'. The vitkir are commonly found in Scandinavia and the Norse lands of Ultima Thule. Many Hermetics refer to them as the Order of Odin, and the vitkir are not so widespread as they once were. They go where vikings go, though they don't always survive it. Vitkir are always equivalent to magi, though they don't follow the Mythic Companion rules. They are just that good on their own. Norse traditional stories always portray vitkir as male, but there is no reason why a woman couldn't become vitkir. (The stories present seithr as a magic done by women, but that magic is evil and corrupt - in games terms, probably an Infernal tradition. But hey, why not let women be vitkir?)

Yeah, the Order of Odin just isn't a thing.

Oh yeah, one other thing. The vitkir know of a ritual that can do something no Hermetic has ever done. That can do something no one else can do . They know a way to earn the Gift if you don't have it. The only other method I know of for doing this in the game involves the Garden of Eden.

Vitkir are badass.

A vitki's magic involves carving runes onto things in special rune script. The duration is until the runes wear off, which is about a day for those painted on skin or clothes, or years for those carved on wood or stone. It takes about two minutes to write a rune script with paint, or at least an hour to carve it into hard materials. Unlike Hermetic magic, vitkir magic causes true and natural change without need for a ritual. A healing rune closes wounds naturall, a harming one causes real and true injury. When the rune is destroyed, the effect ends and nature reasserts itself, but the effects of the spell are not undone. This means that runes that create a thing create a natural one, not a magic one. A sword given enchanted power cannot be resisted by magic resistance . It's just a sword. You can, however, resist a spell being cast on you still. Rune magic does warp its targets over time, however, and any rune-carved object is an Arcane Connection to the vitki who carved it. The runes, you see, are considered part of the vitki. Likewise, anything summoned by a vitki's spell is considered a permanent Arcane Connection to the vitki.

Vitkir rune scripts are their equivalent of formulaic spells. Vitkir tend to know many rune scripts, for they have no spontaneous magic at all. All rune scripts contain the vitki's name, as well as a description of an effect, a target, or both. There are three methods to write a rune script. Method I is used for spells which target the self, or which enchant the object on which they are drawn. This is "I, [NAME], [EFFECT]." Objects enchanted this way are enchanted only so long as they are in use - once you lose contact with the object, the spell ends. So a magic sword is magical only until you lose your hold of it, for example. The target is implied, so you don't need a rune specifying the target, and the description is first-person. For example: "I, Eirik, carve upon this staff the runes for my health."

Method II is used when you want to use your magic on someone other than you or the object the runes are inscribed on. It is "[NAME] [EFFECT], [TARGET]." You either need an Arcane Connection or to be in the presence of your target when you carve the runes. These formulas are written in third person, using a rune to describe the target and a rune to describe the effect. For example: "Eirik carves upon this stick the runes of health for his good wife."

Method III has no effects except to create an Arcane Connection to the target for later use, allowing runes to be inscribed from a distance. The form is "[NAME], [TARGET]." For example: "Eirik carves the runes upon this tree." That lets you then target the thing from a distance later.

Now, suppose you want to cast a rune spell without inscribing your name. That's harder. So is cutting out the full description and just leaving in single runes for target and effect. Why would you do that? Well, it's faster to cast. By taking a large penalty and doing that, you can cast a rune spell in a single combat round. Handy! Still, vitkir are at their best when they've had time to prepare and go into battle fully armed rather than casting any spells during a fight. Some vitki are also able to hide the nature of their spells, obscuring their names or the spell effect with poetic language and obscuring runes. This also makes spells harder, but keeps people from figuring out what they do.

Vitkir do not have Forms or Techniques - they just have the Runes. 24 of them, the Elder Futhark. Let's take a look at them! (They are presented in English alphabetical order for ease of reading by most players.)

A, Ansuz , "Mouth", has many actual meanings, including the mouth of the body and of a river. It started as 'god', and is associated with the Aesir, particularly Odin. When used as a targetting rune, Ansuz refers to images, especially sounds, people (when the spell has to do with speech) or, very rarely, the human mouth or an animal that is being granted speech. Ansuz used for effects may give bonuses to communication, detects auditory illusions, grants the power of speech, recognizes the nature of magical beings, grants telepathy or improves or curses communicative ability.

B, Berkanan , "Birch", is a tree of fertility. The rune is associated with healing and youth, and as a targetting rune, it can be used for plants, children or young animals. As an effect rune, it can bless or curse natural healing, bless or curse actions while wounded, prevent pregnancy, heal wounds or prevent natural healing wounds.

D, Dagaz , "Day", refers to the length of time it takes for the sun to reach the horizon. Thus, it is associated with time, the sun, light and life in winter, as well as growth. As a targetting spell, it targets light and moving images, but it is rarely used as a target. As an effect, it blesses or curses long-term activities or aging, it causes targets to grow or shrink with the passing of the sun, can bring a target to maturity in a mere day or even age a target beyond maturity.

E, Ehwaz , "Horse", refers to the horse and therefore stamina, speed and strength. It also represents mobility in combat and the relation between horse and rider. Used as a target, it largely targets animals, especially those used in battle. As an effect, Ehwaz blesses or curses combat skill, speed or trust and loyalty. It can also tame animals or summon a mount.

F, Fehu , "Wealth", refers to cattle, gold, and so on, but not tools, clothes or weapons. It also often represents strife between kin. Used as a target, it mostly targets domesticated animals or objects that could be seen as wealth. As an effect, it blesses or curses actions that have to do with wealth, such as gambling or treasure-hunting, it grants power to detect precious metals or domesticated animals, and it can summon wealth, usually in the form of domesticated animals or precious metal.

G, Gebo , "Gift", refers to the obligations of receiving gifts and giving them in return. It is both charity and promises. As a target, it targets any object given as a gift, or anyone in debt to you. As an effect, it blesses or curses attempts to influence others, creates feelings of deference and obedience, compels obedience to command or even dominates a target's mind.

H, Hagalaz , "Hail", refers to the cruelty of nature, from storms to illness. It is hail in weather and a hail of missiles. It causes destruction and harm, pain and suffering. It is powerful, but hard to control. As a target, it targets weather, cold or missile weapons. As an effect, it blesses or curses damage, causes bad weather to attack someone, summons severe weather, or makes weather more or less severe.

I, Isa , "Ice", symbolizes hidden danger, as well as coldness and cold emotions. As a target, it targets literal ice, cold or those with cold and implacable feelings. As an effect, it blesses or curses ability to travel in the cold and deal with winter weather, chills targets, freezes water, makes people apathetic and depressed, holds targets motionless or coats targets in ice.

J, Jera , "Year", signifies autumn and the bounty of nature, as well as hard work and prosperity. As a target, it targets crops, livestock and people's health and well-being. As an effect, it blesses or curses very long-term activities, grants immunity to disease, ensures good health or summons food and drink.

K, Kauno , "Pain", refers metaphorically to heat, fever, fire and burning pain. As a target, it targets fire, heat and effects which cause pain or disease. As an effect, it blesses or curses anything to do with disease, blesses or curses actions while sick, blesses or curses recovery from disease, ignites the flammable, warms things, causes pain, or causes disease.

L, Laguz , "Water", refers to water and the ocean as well as hidden dangers. As a target, it targets water or things found underwater. As an effect, it blesses or curses action while underwater, grants the power to see clearly in water, summons water, detects bodies of water, grants water-breathing, speeds sea journeys and causes waves to attack.

M, Mannaz , "Man", refers to mankind, unity and cooperation. Used as a target, it most often targets human beings, physically or mentally. As an effect, it blesses or curses manual dexterity or actions that involve cooperating with people, inspires feelings of unity or causes fighters to function as a trained group.

N, Nandiz , "Need", refers to hardship and trouble. As a target, it targets the desperate, dying or despairing. As an effect, it blesses or curses actions while in great need or desperation, as well as actions that have been tried and failed before, it delays magical effects, binds other rune spells to its own duration and causes despair.

Ng, Ingwaz , "Lord", refers to peace, family and a safe home. As a target, it targets buildings, dwellings and structures, those who live within a particular building or the caster's family and household. As an effect, it blesses or curses actions to do with family and household, senses where family members are and how they feel, ensures easy and healthy births and summons people.

O, Othila , "Inheritance", refers to property and specific material goods - those that are passed on between generations, such as land or personal possessions. It is used to target such things. As an effect, it blesses or curses actions using family heirlooms or property, makes objects better at what they were designed to do and summons inanimate objects.

P, Perth , "Cup", refers to...a lot of things, but mostly fate and chance, pleasure and relaxation or containers that hold secrets. As a target, it targets the supernatural realms, vis, spells or supernatural beings, but not supernatural beings or animals. As an effect, it blesses or curses actionsof pure chance, reduces botches, dispels magic, sense magic and faerie auras, senses vis and recognizes the casters of spells and the nature of spells.

Next time: More runes.

More Vitkir Runes

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

HitTheTargets posted:

It's like 7th Sea all over again. Although, damn! That's a lot of different magic systems for a supplemental book.

Let me put it this way: Ars Magica is not satisfied with a book unless it contains at least one detailed and usually well-thought-out subsystem that could probably be the core of a game on its own.

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Hedge Magic, Revised Edition

R, Raido , "Riding", refers not just to riding, but is related to the Old Norse reid, meaning thunder or chariot, so it also ties into Thor. It symbolizes a journey and all forms of travel, as well as preparation for war or bad weather, along with planning, strategy and thought. As a target, it targets carts, ships, wheels and the harnesses of carts and chariots. As an effect, it blesses or curses actions related to travel, speed and stamina, repairs wheels and harnesses, makes lame animals able to act at full ability, senses direction, speeds journeys and summons large objects.

S, Sowilo , "Sun", is associated with light and the sun and good defeating evil. As a target, it targets light, the Divine and Divine beings. As an effect, it blesses or curses perception. pierces visual illusions, enhances night vision, senses Divine and Infernal auras, extinguishes light, makes things invisible, grants resistance to cold or causes blindingly bright light.

T, Tiwaz , "Tyr", is the Norse god of truth and battle, loyal and self-sacrificing. It is associated with fighters for justice and truthseekers. As a target, it targets thoughts and motivations. As an effect, it blesses or curses actions related to bravery, loyalty or combat, boosts confidence, senses people, grants empathic understanding and detects lies. At higher levels, it can evenly accurately predict actions via complete empathy.

Th, Thurisaz , "Ogre", refers to giants or ogres, which like to harm women, or thorns, sharp and severe. It is related to demons and death, and it is usually seen as evil, though it also relates to shapeshifting. When used as a target, it targets supernatural beings, especially Infernal ones, and also thorns or brambles or anything wooden that pierces or cuts. As an effect, it blesses or curses actions related to negative passions, weakens supernatural beings, causes thorns or brambles to grow, destroys plants and transforms living creatures or objects into other things.

U, Uruz , "Auroch", refers to a large breed of cattle in Scandinavia, and it is a symbol of strength, stamina and manhood. It is related to achievement and defense of the home. Used as a target, it targets wild or magical beasts or weather. As an effect, it blesses or curses strength, makes loads lighter or heavier, grants immunity to effects of the mind, and summons wild beasts.

W, Wunjo , "Joy", refers to comfort and happiness. It can has connotations of glory and victory as well as those who work toward a common goal. As a target, it targets emotions. As an effect, it blesses or curses actions related to presence and social skill, reduces penalties from fatigue or wounds and causes emotion.

Y, Ihwaz , "Yew", refers to the wood used to make longbows, with overtones of death and witchcraft. Used as a target, it targets trees, bows, gravesites and spirits of the dead. As an effect, it curses or blesses intellect, senses supernatural beings, summons supernatural beings, senses the nature of plants, senses corpses, animates corpses, speaks to the dead, summons corpses or summons trees. Consecrated ground blocks most of the things related to corpses.

Z, Algiz , "Elk", refers to protection and elks. It is almost never used to target things, but when it is, it targets elks, hands or grass. As an effect, it blesses or curses ability to take damage, wards against supernatural beings and wards off things related to a secondary rune.

Some vitkir do not use the Elder Futhark, but instead the Younger Futhark, which omits the runes Gebo, Wunjo, Perth, Algiz, Ehwaz, Ingwaz, Dagaz and Othila. They tend to be more powerful with the runes they do know, since they have fewer to study, but they are far less flexible thanks to those runes they lack. In England, the vitkir used the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc, which had more and weaker runes. However, the Order of Hermes exterminated the British vitkir, so there are no futhorc-users any more and those added runes have been lost. It seems, however, that they merely diluted the existing runes rather than adding new power.

Now, the Order of Hermes is traditionally considered at war with the vitkir since the 9th century, so it's difficult for them to study vitkir magic. However, doing so might have some useful effects - most notably, unlocking rune magic, allowing them to inscribe runes on targets to tie spells to as the vitkir do, bypassing the need to penetrate the resistance of that which they carve. The main problem, really, is that the vitkir are despised by some of the Order, and associating with them is thus dangerous.

The End!

What's our next? Choices are: the True Lineage Houses of Hermes and their secrets (Houses of Hermes: True Lineages), the power of God and its impact on you (Realms of Power: The Divine), Mystery Cults (The Mysteries, Revised Edition), the Mystery Cult Houses (Houses of Hermes: Mystery Cults), more depth on Covenants (Covenants), mercantile life (City and Guild), the lost magic of the past (Ancient Magic), the Societates Houses (Houses of Hermes: Societates), France (Lion and Lily: The Normandy Tribunal), academic life (Art and Academe), the realms of magic and magical beings (Realms of Power: Magic), the Faeries (Realms of Power: Faerie), nobility (Lords of Men), other rival spellcasters of the world (Rival Magic), the Church (The Church) or the Middle East (Cradle and Crescent), Germany (Guardians of the Forests: The Rhine Tribunal), a book on various grand goals a magus might have (Hermetic Projects) or Greece (Sundered Eagle: The Theban Tribunal).

Order of Hermes

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

I was bored so I randomly selected one of the old votes.

Ars Magica 5th Edition: City and Guild

It's important to remember that while the Order of Hermes sits apart, it is part of the world. Locals know about covenants, especially if they go to market. The Order is obscure, not secret. It's impractical to be completely isolated - especially when the larger covenants employ enough grogs to be villages in their own right. Fortunately, Tribunal rulings have made it possible to traffic with mundane people...though prosecution will come for flooding the market with magical goods or devastating towns. It's important, though, to keep in mind that urban areas are very different from rural ones. A town or city will have its own laws and charter, which will guide what rights people have and what can be traded. The greatest freedoms are in the cities in Germany, Italy and some parts of Flanders - indeed, Italian cities can be strong enough to rule over areas around them. In France and England, the monarchs have been embracing urban independence to counter the power of lords.

Class, guild and profession are what guide urban politics. Those who earn money by service, trade or manual labor or looked down on by administrators, clerks and warriors. The free artisans and merchants, however, are gaining increasing economic and political control. Change is coming. In the rural areas, you are born into a job and status and never leave it - that is not so in the towns and cities. Pride and competition with local towns are common, and fuel many public works.

Becoming a full citizen of a town under the town's charter - a townsman, as the term goes - requires at minimum a year and a day of residence. Some town charters have additional requirements, generally to ensure citizenship belongs to the wealthy. Land ownership, building a house, swearing an oath of defense, having a trade or belonging to a guild are all possible requirements. In Toledo and some other Spanish towns, a man's wife must live in the town permanently for him to be eligible, preventing traveling merchants from claiming citizenship in several towns. Priests and clerics cannot generally become townsmen, as they are subject to canon law, and many times they have fewer rights. Incidentally - being a townsman gives you a sympathetic connection to all other townsmen, making it easier to pierce their magic resistance, should they have any. However, this mystical connection can only exist within one town at a time - gain citizenship somewhere else and it lapses.

A town always has an authority, a lord . Usually it's a king, a lesser noble, a bisho por an abbot. The only real requirement is that they have claim to own the town's land, and sometimes such claims are disputed. To avoid war, a neutral party like the Church or a local feudal overlord will solve these problems - unless a town is very important, no one really wants war. Noble lords tend to want loyalty, funding and control. They give charters for control of trade, financial gain or other such reasons far more often than military strategy, save for kings, who tend to care about that sort of thing. Ecclesiastical lords usually grant charters in order to establish central collection points for the goods of a diocese, and these towns tend be small - though not always. These towns tend to have a stronger Divine aura than most.

Sometimes, a lord is supernatural - faerie lords can grant charters to both mundane and faerie towns. Sometimes such towns are entirely within a faerie regio, removed from the normal system of government, but sometimes a faerie lord will offer an isolated town a rival charter to its mundane lord's. Sometimes the faeries don't really understand what they're doing, while other times a faerie town becomes fully integrated into mundane society and the economy, with the local faeries trading to merchants and magi and generally acting like normal people. In such towns, worship of the Divine is discouraged, and towns with faerie charters tend to have very low Divine auras, perhaps swamped by greater Faerie auras. Occasionally, a demon will tempt a town into a demonic charter, though this only happens in small, isolated areas with weak Church presence. Such charters often grant the town supernatural benefits such as freedom from disease or economic blessings in exchange for, generally, some kind of sin. Very rarely, a land-owning covenant may grant a charter to a town on its land, but this is highly controversial and can be seen as a violation of the Code.

A town charter, in any case, will lay out the rights and duties of the townsmen. The town will owe a collective tax to their lord in most cases, though sometimes (for supernatural lords) the tax is not in money and goods, but in things like wives or festivals. A charter will also hold legal rights. A townsman may usually expect the right to only be tried by the town's court, having no obligation to attend external courts, even feudal ones. Charters often restrict or abolish trials by ordeal or combat and set limits on fines. This allows merchants a stable framework to do business on without fear of arbitrary punishments. Charters may also grant trade monopolies and toll exemptions to merchants, to encourage their settlement. A toll exemption will apply throughout a lord's entire territory. It may grant permission to hold a market or fair, usually with conditions or restrictions. Salvage rights from shipwrecks are a common thing for a charter to discuss - usually, the lord gets them, but some towns grant them to merchants. There will also be rules for appointing town officials and the buying and selling of land. Some charters outright ban that, though, and instead pay a rent called tenure to the lord. Since tenure is in cash rather than labor, that's a lot better than the serfdom of the rural peasantry.

Moving on past the nitty-gritty details of town topography and diet...let's talk about disease! Disease is caused by humoral imbalance, not viruses. This is vital to keep in mind!


Leprosy is one of most feared diseases, for it is a divine mark of damnation. It manifests in the form of excess black bile, causing skin damage, clawing of the hands and feet, blindness, loss of sensation and paralysis, as well as occasional madness. Two to three million people in all of Europe are lepers. Poor moral standards, particularly in sexual practices, help cause leprosy, and menstruating women are particularly vulnerable. Due to the Divine origins of the disease, nothing but Divine intervention may cure leprosy, though Hermetic magic may alleviate or hide symptoms. Most communities obey the 1179 decree of Pope Alexander III and expel their lepers, often ritually burying their posessions, and treat them as dead. The Church maintains colonies, called leprosariums, for the convalescence of lepers. There are over 2000 leprosariums in France alone. In some places, like Scotland, leprosy is so feared that lepers are hanged or burned at the stake. A town charter frequently will have the town's rules for dealing with lepers, which may include special begging rights or restrictions. Incidentally, Hermetic mages cannot cause true leprosy - they can just make a disease that has similar effects. Being a leper sucks - you can't get a good reputation because you smell like rotting flesh, and you age extremely badly, dying far younger than most. That said, the game does have rules for playing a leper if you really want to.

The ague is caused by bad air, and ague outbreaks cluster around sources of bad air, like tanneries or sewage. The main symptoms are cycles of chills and fever. Continual fever indicates excess phlegm, quotidian fever occurs daily and indicates excess blood, a tertian fever is every three days and indicates black bile, while a quartan fever is every four days and indicates yellow bile. Ague is painful, especially continual fever, but not often fatal.

St. Anthony's fire is caused by an excess of blood produced by a minor demon in the intestines. Symptoms include a red rash, pain, visions, spasms, contortions and a burning sensation in the limbs. Eventually, the limbs begin to rot and you die within five seasons if the disease is not cured and the demon expelled. The demon is not very potent, and the ORder of Hospitalers of St. Anthony know a ritual to exorcise it. There are many chapter houses of the Order throughout Europe.

Tarantism is caused by excess yellow bile due to the bite of a faerie tarantula. The disease causes the uncontrollable urge to dance to the point of exhaustion, along with great thirst, unusual sexual urges and pain. It is worst in the summer, though the disease may take several years after the bite to manifest and predominantly afflicts young women. Tarantism, while exceptionally annoying, is not fatal, though the sufferer will require someone to feed them. The song known as the tarantella cures the disease, and an epidemic of tarantism will often be followed by the arrival of minstrels who will cure it for a price.

Childbed fever occurs due to the fact that giving birth can upset the humors, making the mother vulnerable to the demon of childbed fever. The demon attempts to enter the body as the baby leaves, where it will cause chills, fever, pain, nausea and, in terminal cases, a rotting of the reproductive organs that may spread to the rest of the body. The demon is most fatal in births that involve complications.

The bloody flux is caused by excess phlegm due to cold, wet living conditions. It's common in towns and campaigning armies, and it causes diarrhea, chills, cramps, runny nose and bloody stool. It is not fatal but can be extremely incapacitating.

Worms are an agglomeration caused by excess blood. In a healthy person, the worms quickly disperse, but they build up in the unhealthy and overwhelm the body. Children and infants are very susceptible to worms, as their humors are mixed with milk. Worms are rarely fatal, but in the long term can be very painful and incapacitating.

Abscesses are caused by an absence of humors and are common during famine. They cause wounds in the form of pustules. Black pustules indicate lack of yellow bile, and are the worst. Yellow pustules indicate lack of black bile. Grey pustules indicate lack of blood, and red pustules, the least terrible, indicate lack of phlegm.

Next time: Crime and punishment.

Crime & Punishment

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: City and Guild

Towns suffer greater crime than rural areas - there's more anonymity, after all. You can get away with murder much more easily...though murder is not the worst crime you can commit. Theft is. See, murder's a crime of passion, and therefore the fault of drink, demons or momentary madness, while theft, burglary and robbery are only ever premeditated and therefore worse sins. Crimes are done by ordinary folks; there are no thieves' guilds or other such things, though there are highwayman gangs or other criminal groups that act together. There aren't any formal police, either, though large towns have a watch that patrols the city at night, usually to enforce curfew by escorting drunkards home. The watch also try to interrupt and apprehend criminals they see, but they don't really investigate anything or solve crimes after the fact unless they were done against the watch itself. They just interrupt crimes in progress.

Towns have the duty to handle court trials. Your average town has maybe a half dozen magistrates who also double as tax assessors or other clerical jobs. Your average trial starts with an accusation by the plaintiff against the defendant, who then either admits to or denies the crime. The plaintiff does not need to be the victim; in a murder case, it's usually a kinsman. If the defendant is not present, officials are sent to notify them and a date is set. A defendant who repeatedly fails to show will be tried in absentia. Incidentally, it's perfectly normal to accuse a non-human of a crime - a farmer may, for example, accuse his neighbor's sheep of grazing on his field, or a nymph might be accused of seducing travelers. The court then decides whether it has jurisdiction or not. A court has no jurisdiction over a man disciplining his family, nor over any Church official (who are tried under canon law). Commercial law and heresy are also tried by Church courts. A case can be thrown out for being frivolous, as well. Otherwise, the court claims jurisdiction over all residents of the town. If a case involves several townspeople from over a region, it is tried in the most important court in all the towns involved, though this applies only in relatively homogenous areas like England or France. In, say, northern Italy, a rival town may well harbor a criminal due to inter-town antagonism.

A court will then go to trial, in which arguments can be put forward based on precedent and the text of law, as well as logic in cases not rooted in canon law, which does not accept such arguments. (Sharia law is covered in another supplement.) Once the court decides there is a case, it tends to reach a decision very quickly based on witness statements, known as oaths, and the character of the witnesses. Evidence is also considered if it exists, but there are no formal procedures to gather evidence and many courts make money by selling confiscated stolen property. Forensic science does not exist and magically gathered evidence tends to be viewed with suspicion. Should a defendant found guilty truly insist on innocence, they may choose to undergo a trial by ordeal in some jurisdictions, though it is archaic and often limited or banned. The Church allows them, however, as a show of Divine intervention. An ordeal of combat has the defendant face the plaintiff, with the victor being judged the winner of the case. An ordeal of cold water has the defendant thrown in a river. If innocent, they sink. An ordeal of hot water has them pull a stone from a boiling kettle, and if innocent the wound will heal after three days. An ordeal of iron is similar, but instead of a boiling kettle you carry a red-hot iron rod nine feet.

In any case, if the defendant is found guilt, sentence is passed. Sometimes, it's dictated by the town charter, but usually a magistrate has discretion here, for mitigating circumstances such as alcohol or whether a death was premeditated or a crime of passion. Thievery, robbery, house-breaking, arson, premeditated murder and treason to town or lord are all usually punishable by death, generally by hanging but sometimes by beheading, drowning or burning at the stake. Executions are public, generally at the next market day. Murder, accidental death, rape, assault, petty theft and failure to obey charter obligations (tax evasion, say, or breaking curfew) are punished by fines, which can be quite high and take a lifetime to pay or low enough to be pocket change. A proportion of the fine is paid to the victim or their relatives, and the rest to the town or lord. If a fine is unpaid, the criminal is declared an outlaw, whom anyone can kill freely for a reward. Sometimes, branding or mutilation is done instead of or in addition to a fine, especially in violent offenses, where it often matches the crime. Some minor crimes, such as prostitution, begging and petty theft, are punished instead by public shaming and ridicule.

Prisons exist, but not for punishment. You're in kept prison only while awaiting trial or execution. Prisoners are fed, but may be required to pay for their meals. Visitors are not normally allowed aside from Church or court officials, though some jailers take bribes. Towns without prisons may keep prisoners in the stocks instead. Prisons also house political prisoners, such as wealthy prisoners awaiting ransom, but those are usually the prisoners of nobles and more likely to be kept in a castle or military camp.

Moving on through the list of famous towns, we learn about crafting. Your average craftsman earns around 10 pounds per year if they make inexpensive or standard goods, are guild journeymen or are basic manual laborers. A merchant or a craftsman making expensive items or owning a string of workshops will earn around 20 pounds per year, as well a Guild master. A well-off merchant or extremely skilled Guild master will earn perhaps 40 pounds per year, and a skilled merchant ship or small fleet will earn about 100 pounds per year. A minor merchant house (two cities or so) may earn up to 250 pounds per year, as might a mid-sized fleet with a great range. Only the greatest of fleets and the most powerful merchant companies make more.

The book then provides a brief look at the Labor rules, by which craftsmen can work to earn their money and improve their businesses. They'll receive more detail later, but suffice to say that it's a complex and interesting subsystem for people who don't mind fiddling around with the numbers. They allow a character to advance in wealth and social class. It should be noted: if you overwork yourself, you will get a bad reputation - it is considered morally wrong to work on Sundays and Saint's Days unless you literally cannot afford to do otherwise, even if you're working towards a laudable goal. Being miserly in order to save on expenses also earns a bad reputation.

Now, let's talk guilds. With the rise of cities, the guilds have formed - communities of workers engaging in the same trade. There are three types of guild: craft guilds, service guilds and merchant guilds. Craft guilds are craftsmen who produce finished goods. Service guilds are laborers who provide a service. Merchant guilds differ from the other two and are discussed later. Anyway, a guild exists to protect its members. A guild stipulates how manufacturing is done, regulates prices and ensures fair treatment. They are corporate organizations of every tradesman involved in the craft, but membership numbers are restricted to avoid competition, limiting the number of apprentices, journeymen and masters. Craft guilds include blacksmiths, carpenters, masons, clothiers, bakers, dyers and armorers among others, while service guilds include wood cutters, wine callers, servants, muleteers and traveling companions.

Most towns have at least one guild, overseeing the largest trade or merchant group in the area. Larger towns have several guilds. This has profited the guild members, but confused medieval society's traditional notions. After all, society traditionally has three groups: those who pray, the clerics, those who war, the nobles, and those who toil, everyone else. Some guildmasters, however, are wealthier than nobles giving them as much or more power than their lords. With the rise of heresies and the recent trend of mendicant preachers, the failure of the Fourth Crusade and the distasteful Albigensian Crusade, the guilds are stirring up an already turbulent society.

A guild is always a powerful financial and political player. They build grand guildhalls for their meetings and feasts, sparing no expense, for the decorations reflect the prestige of the guild. They will provide a limited income for destitute and disabled workers and their families, as well as funding for funerals of deceased members. They conduct religious ceremonies for their patron saint and some even run schools for the children of members. They tend to also fund public works for their towns, and some towns demand that guild members do other tasks as well, such as serving as wall watchmen. While all guilds are in principle the same, there is a hierarchy - those that make more expensive goods have more clout. The dean of the wool merchants' guild has more pull than the dean of the belt makers' guild, for example. Financial success is political status.

Guilds are not international. While the Blacksmith's Guild of Paris may resemble the Blacksmith's Guild of Venice, they have no connection in any official way, and a Parisian guild member is just as forbidden from working in Venice as any other non-member of the Venetian guild. Guilds are more than just a workers' organization, though. They're essentially an extended family - they work together, eat together, play together. They give identity.

Guilds are divided into ranks: Apprentice, journeyman, master, senior master and the dean, who runs the guild. Leaders are elected from within and may hold their own courts when only guild members and clients are involved. To ensure procedures are followed, a guild has a board of officials made from senior masters to police members. Commonly they are known as aldarmen or bailiffs, or perhaps just officers. Each member of the guild signs the guild roster, stating name and rank, and perhaps information on membership length or location of shop, number of apprentices and so on. If your name is stricken from the roster, you're out.

An apprentice is usually a young boy between 10 and 20, learning from an elder craftsman. Most are apprenticed to their fathers, and both guild and non-guild craftsmen use apprentices. Young laborers also perform a form of apprenticeship, working to learn the trade from a skilled mentor. Guild apprentices are much more strictly regulated than non-guild apprentices. Apprenticeship lasts for about seven years and is full of menial work while the apprentice lives with his master and serves him. Apprentices lack legal rights, and some live little better than slaves. However, guild apprentices not apprenticed to their parent must have a contract, which generally involves erasure of a parent's debt in exchange for the child, or payment of the master to train the child, in some cases. Apprentices may be dismissed and thrown out for any reason at all so long as it doesn't break the contract, and even then they can do it if they refund anything they were paid or claim the youth was too inept to train and forfeited the fee. An apprentice can be traded or sold to another master, too, and has no say in the matter. Apprenticeship ends after seven years, but some masters require a test creation, an apprentice piece. Such work is shoddy and never sold, but is usable, at least. Those few who fail must serve another season before trying again. An apprentice who cannot pass by the age of 20 is dismissed as incompetent and gets a bad reputation.

Journeymen are those who graduate, being legally empowered to practice their craft now. They own the tools they need and have legal right to make a living, as well as their own personal stamp to mark their goods. They may work for a master, with a contract giving them a set wage over a stipulated period. They might supervise apprentices of the master and sell crafts in the master's shop. They no longer live with their masters and are considered young adults, responsible for themselves. They typically seek a spouse and work hard to earn their wages. A craftsman's stamp on agood, incidentally, counts as an Arcane Connection to the craftsman, which most mundane craftsmen do not know. The connection wears off between a week to a few years later, of course. In any case, the guild strictly controls the number of journeymen that can be employed in an area as a whole, and so often a journeyman must travel to another town to seek employment where there is either a free space or no guild to regulate. It takes quite a lot of money to graduate to master status, as well as a vote of the senior masters. Journeymen must also pay dues to the local guild each year, and those who fail are expelled from the guild.

Guild Masters are always at least 25 years old or so, and have the right to own their own workshops, train apprentices and employ journeymen. Masters have a voice in guild affairs and are expected to use it. They have the right to attend guild meetings, and most do, since every decision will impact them. They need not travel, however, and a guild master who lives outside town will often skip meetings. Missing a meeting is not a problem. Masters must pay annual dues and will be expelled if they fail to do so.

Senior Masters have been at it for ten years or more as masters, and retain all the same rights. However, their opinions carry more weight in guild meetings. They are around 36 years old or more and have immense skill. They are allowed to own multiple workshops, and the second (or more) will be run by journeymen foremen or a master fallen on hard times. Senior masters serve as guild officials who make sure everyone else obeys the rules, approve of journeymen and masters and witness the signing of the guild roster. They collect dues, handle complaints and have the power to make contracts with other guilds, lords and other parties, perhaps to buy raw materials, or to hire mercenaries to guard the guild's investments. Guilds often hire mercenaries to guard their masters and workshops. Most guilds have only six officials, but more or less is not that rare. In some towns, the lord appoints guild officials, while in others they are elected, or elected but approved by the lord. An official retains office for six months, but are eligible to return to office immediately upon stepping down. Some guilds have term limits, but most don't. The fact that in theory every master will be an official at some point means that guild officials have incentive to deal fairly, for they will be judged by their fellows later. Memories last longer than terms. Guild officials also have the power to defrock and expel members, confiscating their tools and workshops. This is drastic and rarely exercised.

One or two guild officials will serve as inquisitors, whose duty is to make regular inspections of guild workshops and wares, to ensure quality and obedience to rules. They discuss any problems they find with the other officials, who vote on what to do. Decisions are by majority, with the guild dean breaking ties. Inquisitors inspections are always unscheduled, and substandard goods are confiscated on the spot, with a fine of their value imposed on the master who owns the workshop.

The Guild Dean is the head of the guild, also called by other titles, such as hansgraf or doyen, or the Count of the House. The dean is either selected by the local lord or elected, and removed the same way, generally by unanimous vote with elections. Most deans, though, keep their job for life, and the only real way to get rid of one is scandal or death. The dean receives a nice annual stipend and perhaps even some property. Guild deans are easy to mistake for minor nobles or wealthy priests. They spend their time in meetings, negotiating contracts and privileges for the guild and trying to increase guild revenues. They sign all contracts and guild documents and handle all interaction with outsiders, as well as organizing feasts and parades, and may well maintain contact with other guilds in the area to see how they do their work.

Can a woman join a guild? Strictly speaking, only the textile and brewing guilds accept women, and it is rare that a woman in such guilds becomes a master, and they are legally forbidden to be guild officials. Fewer still become senior masters, and it is rare indeed for a woman to become a guild dean. However , there is a way to bypass all that: nepotism. Every master has the ironclad right to train any children they have in their craft, regardless of sex. Legally, daughters are entered onto the guild roster under their father's name, placing the name on the roster twice. A daughter in a guild by this method has all the same rights and duties as any male member, so long as her father remains a member of the guild in good standing. This actually allows a woman to hold any position a man would be able to. You can do the same trick with marriage - marry a guild member and you can use your husband's name on the roster, too - a man's wife has as much right to train under him as his children do. Such a woman can stay on the roster even if her father or husband dies, using a brother or son or brother-in-law's name as needed. These women have just as much ability to advance as men do, for they are considered, legally, to be male for all that this matters to in guild affairs, and advancement is based on skill, quality and politics, none of which are gender-based.

Next time: More guilds and crafting.

Craft Guilds

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Count Chocula posted:

My favorite are the Nightwalkers, and I want to find out more about them. The Night Battles looks like the main source for them in Ars Magica, since it includes 2 of the mentioned traditions.

Bibliography says...Carlo Ginzburg's Ecstasies: Deciphering the Witches' Sabbath and The Night Battles: Witchcraft and Agragian Cults in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries , Claude Lecoteux's Witches, Werewolves and Fairies: Shapeshifters and Astral Doubles in the Middle Ages and Montague Summers' The Werewolf in Lore and Legend .

Ars Magica 5th Edition: City and Guild

Your average craft guild is not international, with the notable exception of the Masons' Guild. In the early 13th century, where most games start, guilds are general - blacksmiths all work together, no matter what their specialty. By 1300 or so, they specialize - there's now a Locksmith's Guild, a Horseshoer's Guild or a Nailmaker's Guild. In 1220, it'd be rare for even a large city to have more than 10 or 20 guilds. But by 1300, they'd have upwards of 100 to 500 in a similarly sized place, and even the smallest towns would have at least one guild. Service guilds, also known as professional guilds, started out for groups like doctors, lawyers and judges - specialized and expensive professionals who had the finance and knowledge to start a guild. It's until the 1300s that more lower class service guilds show up, at least in the real world - bleachers, restauranteurs, wetnurses, prostitutes and so on.

The Blacksmith's Guild is a common one, and potent one. Blacksmiths work in iron, you see, and iron is mystical. Blacksmiths are mystical. It's said that the blacksmith, besides being the strongest man in the village, is also the most virile. It's said that some can curse or bless with a touch, while others command the weather. And everyone knows that blacksmiths make you more powerful. They make tools, which make others able to perform fantastic feats. Even a child can cut down a tree with the right tool. Iron is the power to impose man's will on the world, and it is shaped by blacksmiths. That's why fairies shun the touch of iron - it is the human desire to reshape the world made manifest. Blacksmiths work iron, and really haven't managed to figure out the trick of steel and regulating steel production yet. They make all kinds of goods, especially farm tools...or the wire used by armorers to make chainmail. The noise of their shops is great, and the guild typically prohibits blacksmiths from working before dawn or after dusk, as well as giving special rules to follow to prevent fires from raging out of control. Blacksmiths' Guilds rarely require apprentices to submit an apprentice piece - just serve their time. The patron saint of blacksmiths is Saint Dunstan, whose feast day is May 19.

The Tanners' Guild works with offal and shit to make leather out of hide. The smell is horrible, so they must work outside towns, but the finished product is lucrative. Tanners tend to be cheery people with no particular idolization for the rich who buy their goods. They know, after all, that Genesis itself states that God is a tanner and that every piece of leather was once covered in shit. The guild inspects their work for safety and quality, checking for minute flaws, unnoticed hairs and tears from the knives. An apprentice must be able to produce a finished piece of leather before graduating. Tanners are also quite handy to know if you run a covenant because they are the guides to the waste disposal community and will happily help you deal with the muckrakers and other reviled but legal groups who deal in waste management. The patron saint of tanners is Saint Bartholomew, whose feast day is August 24.

The Glass Maker's Guild is an art and a craft, making the most fragile of goods. The best glassmakers in Europe live in the Serene Republic of Venice, where they get the finest Asian potash. Before Venice, Constantinople was the best, and before that, Imperial Rome. Glassblowers are meticulous, aloof people, by and large, with truly powerful lungs. It is magi who are the most frequent customers, alongside alchemists, seeking the alembics, flasks and containers that only a glassblower could make. Due to requiring many furnaces, glassmakers do not work within town limits, but usually in nearby forests, though the masters and journeymen will live in town and return each night, leaving the apprentices to watch over the shop. Apprentices are one to three years longer than normal, and an apprentice piece is required. The patron saints of glassmaking are Saint Luke (OCtober 18) and Saint Mark (April 25).

The Armorer's Guild marks the line between noble and merchant. Most merchants, and indeed most armorers, are forbidden to use the armor they create. You see, many cities restrict the legal wearing of armor to nobles and authorities. Armor is authority and wealth, because true power is force. However, as armies grow, the nobles often encourage the common folk to wear armor, and armorers have noticed the rise of merchant-funded armies. They must ask - will they sell to only those who can legally wear, or to any who have the coin? Chainmail, the finest armor they make, is typically not custom-fitted unless you're too big for a normal suit. Display pieces are rarely sold except to persistent buyers, though. An apprentice must be able to make a full suit of chainmail, which must be inspected for quality and to prove it's not a mere repair job. The patron saint is Saint Eligus (December 1).

The Clothier's Guild is powerful, for clothing allows people to show their status. The function of clothes is to make one's social class and job apparent, revealing the nature while hiding the body. Clothiers are very powerful in the new economy, as well. Every suit they make is tailored for a specific person, measured and fitted. Cloaks, on the other hand, are off-the-rack. Clothiers' Guilds typically allow women as apprentices and journeymen but not masters, save via nepotism. Apprenticeships are short, but there is a test of skill to graduate. Clothiers do not repair torn clothes. Their patron saint is the recently canonized Saint Homobonus, a Cremonan tailor who gave free clothes to the poor. His day is November 13.

The Shoemaker's Guild allows people to travel. Everyone needs shoes. They are also known as cordwainers, since they use cordwain, a leather from Cordoba. Shoemakers used to make their own leather, but the guild system typically means this no longer occurs. Medieval shoes are rather fragile, and most be replaced every few months. Most shoes are off-the-rack, not bespoke. Shoes are typically not repaired, either, though cobblers do exist. (A cobbler repairs but does not make shoes.) The Guild ensures that shoemakers do not sell secondhand shoes. Apprentices need not produce an apprentice piece. The patron saints are Saint Crispin and Saint Crispinian, who share October 25.

The Mason's Guild are hard workers, those who raise buildings. They are proud folk, and many sign their work, giving them a mystical connection to the things they build. Their craft is said to have been handed down by God to build his Temple, and they know the secrets of lifting and moving stone. They are the only craft guild that operates internationally, thanks to the time it takes to make huge works and the distances they travel. A master mason must understand all aspects of the work, everything that the hundreds of workers beneath them do, and so masons have grand reputations. They boost practically every economic sector just by being around, and they are all literate. Masonry apprenticeship is long, as a result. The job is quite dangerous, and accidents are common. The guild compensates for injuries and deaths of masters, but not lower ranks. Thus, many vagabonds and highwaymen are failed masons whose maiming prevents them from work. The patron saint of Masons is Saint Stephen (December 26), and the French have also adopted Saint Barbara (December 4).

The Bakers' Guild is important - everyone needs bread. Without bread, no one would have anything. Without bread, a city dies. Bread is nearly sacred. Highly literate bakers know that Jesus was born in a town named 'House of Bread', and all know that He offers His flesh as sacrament via bread. It is the highest honor to bake sacramental bread, and many saints also have special breads for their feast days. Apprentices do not have to do anything but serve out their term, and a baker's workshop is a bustling place, full of many apprentices and journeymen. The Guild examines the bread to ensure that only the allowable amount of dirt gets into it. The patron saint is Saint Honoratus of Arles (January 16), but in the coming years the bakers will also adopt Saint Elizabeth of Hungary after her death in 1231 and canonization in 1235. Her feast day will be November 17.

The Slavers' Guild exists. It is forbidden by Church law to take Christian slaves since the 9th century, but non-Christian slaves are allowed. Slaves come from the Slavic lands, Spain, Africa, Constantinople and the Black Sea. Northern countries have few slaves, but there are many in, say, Italy. Slaves are property, without rights. The guild is small, since few areas are interested, and they are somewhere between a craft and service guild - they sell a product, but do not make it. The guild ensures that slaves are not old, crippled or sick. Remember - to these people, slavery is not immoral. Saint Paul taught that slaves should obey their masters, and the Church requires slaves not be abused. Some Pope have been ex-slaves. When the Church has sufficient power, it forbids slavery due to the potential for abuse. Fun fact: all Jews in England, legally, belong to the king. He can lease them out. Slavery is also common in Muslim lands. Those who wish to free slaves will find many allies in the Church - at least three orders of monks are dedicated to it.

Now, craftwork. Crafting and managing a workshop has its own complex subsystem, which allows for making money...and, for some, magic items. You see, there are some supernatural powers that only craftsmen can possess. The Eye of Hephaestus , also known as the Eye of Saint Dunstan, allows a crafter to tell the quality of an item merely by touching it, and even to tell if it has magic within it. Touched by the (Realm) means a craftsman has a bit of power in their blood - Divine, Infernal, Faerie or Magical. Whatever the case, that little hint of magic allows them to create, by raw skill alone, enchanted items. Not the most potent ones, of course, and they're limited to a handful of Forms which they may forge into items, but they can do it - and they're immune to Warping from the realm that gives them their power. Lastly, Crafter's Healing , the single best healing ability in the entire game. It allows a crafter to touch their tools to a wound, making a fairly simple roll. Success lets them reduce the wound by one level. It always warps the target a bit and is very tiring...but only on a botch does anything bad happen. (Specifically: the crafter suffers the same wound they tried to heal.)

As a side note - magi have a very simple spell that will defeat even the most sophisticated locks. Just, you know, fun fact.

Next time: Travel.


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: City and Guild

There's three main travel methods in Mythic Europe. First, sea travel. It's the cheapest per mile and the fastest method for long trips. River travel is the second, about twice as expensive due to smaller ship size and more crew per ton of cargo. Road travel, the last, is eight to twenty times more expensive than sea travel and far more difficult. Travelers typically use a mix of means - sea travel to a port, then inland via river, then roads to the final destination, say.

Roads originally used the Roman highway system, but it's been all but destroyed by time. Now, tracks follow more natural pathways, and harder ones. Dirt roads are little more than trails that can accomodate beasts of burden in good weather. Light carts can sometimes manage, in flat and dry areas. Gravel roads are uncommon, but well-suited for beasts of burden in all weather, and light carts on relatively level ground on clear days. Many gravel roads have drainage ditches. Paved roads are rarest, and suited for carts even in bad weather. Bridges in general are very rare, and primarily made of wood. Stone bridges, which all but guarantee safe passage over a river, are so rare that any stone bridge built will soon have a town spring up around it. In stormy weather, trade routes will make surprisingly large detours to find a working bridge.

Near large cities and along major routes, there's an inn every eight miles or so, which is about a third of a day's travel. Inns make for good stops, with food and water for mounts and travelers. Small inns are basically just a big house, and you share the bed with the innkeeper's family. Larger inns, especially in cities, are far less crowded, and often more expensive. Some places where a stop is needed are not good places to live, though. These stops tend to be served by Church-run hospices as an act of charity. Locals are paid to guide travelers and maintain the area. Hospices are usually short on funds and send out questers, begging monks who request funding from the rich and powerful. City inns provide a number of services, on the other hand - storage, moneychanging, witnessing bank transfers, serving as matchmakers for merchant buyers and sellers, translation in some cases and even working as a hiring agency for travelers' guides and workers.

Rivers are a vital part of trade, serving to connect cities and providing economic opportunity in rural areas via unmapped tributaries in which resources can be found. Of course, all major rivers have folklore, some of which might be true. They say the Elbe is haunted by Frau Wode and her Wild Hunt, while the Po is where the sun god Phaeton drowned, but his body was never recovered. The Rhine is haunted by the doom-singing nymph Lorelei, and the Rhone's endpoint at the Camargue Delta is haunted by a ghost horse which kidnaps wicked children to keep in its larder.

Carts are the mainstay of land transport, though the smaller carts can barely handle any real cargo at all - perhaps a single barrel of wine. These are two-wheeled carts, pulled by perhaps three horses at most. Four-wheeled carts take six horses, and can usually handle twice the load, but they take good roads and bridges to be of any use. The largest carts are far more expensive, requiring smooth, paved roads but pulling nearly two tons of cargo apiece. Land transport has fewer manpower requirements than ships - one man can handle three beasts of burden, though every cart will need a driver, and typically a second driver for long distances, alternating with the first and acting as a guard.

River barges are the main river transport, and they vary in size with the rivers. ThE Thames barges or the buss can manage coastal travel and carry around 20 tons without much draft. It's got around eight crewmen and can even do local fishing. The cog, on the other hand, is the main trade ship of the Atlantic and the northern seas, designed to settle flatly at low tide so it can be unloaded to carts. Most cogs can carry 20 tons, but some larger ones can manage five to seven times that, and are also used for war. Bulk grain ships are larger yet, but cogs that can handle more than 240 tons are exceedingly rare. A handful of men can manage a 20-ton cog, while a dozen can handle a 100-tonner. A 240-ton cog would need upwards of 18 crewmen. The galley is an oar-driven ship with one mast, popular in Italy and the Byzantine empire. Galleys have crews upwards of 160 men, which limits their cargo space a lot - they typically can't manage more than 20 to 30 tons, usually luxury goods. They run out of food and water about once a week, and need to be refilled. Their main advantages are speed regardless of wind and large crews that discourage piracy. Still, even in the Mediterranean, galleys are less than 5% of shipping. They cost a lot and need lots of crew. The main ship of the Mediterranean is the nef, a Roman design using Arab rigging with up to three masts. They carry between 20 and 100 tons of cargo. A handful of ships in the area can carry even more - Genoa, for example, has two ships used to bring goods from Cyprus which carry around 250 tons apiece, and Venice has two similary-sized grain ships that go to Egypt each year. The largest ships of the area can handle 800 tons, but these are exclusively grain barges run by cities, not merchants. Most traders prefer fleets of smaller ships to spread out risk.

It's a nice boat.

A river barge manages 8-10 miles a day - higher as it goes downriver, lower as it goes upriver. Strong currents widen the gap. Most road cargoes manage 15-25 miles a day. A merchant with a light load on a horse might make 24. Coaches for travellers make 18-24, with faster speed being less comfortable. A skilled courier riding hard can make 30 miles a day. A sailing ship will make 60-80 miles a day, but larger ships are far slower and depend on weather. A bad wind can stall you for weeks. A courier who changes horses and has a steady supply might make up to 90 miles in a single day. As an aside: it's bad luck to sail with a wizard aboard, so traveling magi are best off hiding their power if they don't want to pay out the nose and hurt morale.

Next time: Markets and fairs.

The Market

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Racing through this one a bit but today I have little else to do while at home.

Ars Magica 5th Edition: City and Guild

The market's a very important place - you get any food you don't make yourself there. Almost no one is truly self-sufficient. Markets can bring people in from up to seven miles away - the distance that is still reasonable to leave, do business and come home all in one day. In most small towns or large villages, the market is once a week, always the same day. Larger towns will hold market twice a week, and a city may have some form of market every day. In theory you need the lord's permission to hold market, but in older villages or towns, this is often ignored. In all but the smallest markets, sellers will pay a toll, based on whether they are going to carry their goods or use a booth or stall. Depending on if some public works need doing, there may be an added tax. Market sites have been in use for centuries, in many cases. Often markets are on Sundays, but a recent trend has moved away from that due to complaints by churchmen and preachers. In many places, the market is open only for the mornings, ending at noon. In some places, the market is marked by a cross, and in places where the traders pray before the cross before the market opens, just trading is more likely due to Divine auras, while on the fringes, greed and swindling are more common, away from the cross.

A new market too close to an old one can kill the old market and the toll it earns. Indeed, a new sponsor may choose to charge no toll for a few years just to ensure this happens. More rarely, a market is killed by war, when a ruler may order that all food that would go to market instead becomes supplies for the army in the area, or to supply a feast for visiting nobles. Moving on...not all markets are blessed by the Divine. Particularly in areas of Greece and Italy where the Church is weaker, some markets remain pledged to the god Mercury/Hermes. Where a market cross would be is a herm pillar or standing stone, with a fountain into which superstitious traders pour a libation of oil. These markets bear a magical, not divine, aura, which makes the goods appear more vivid and attractive though it doesn't help encourage just trading. A few ancient Roman temples within markets actually hold magical regiones, within which the temples remain active, usually selling some kind of magical service for as long as they can keep the Church from finding out and destroying their magical aura.

The most attractive market for some, though, is the Infernal market, which appears where there is good chance of corruption. This market is run entirely by demons and their agents. The goods look better than they truly are, and they are cheap enough to be afforable, but not suspiciously so. Tempting samples are offered free when someone seems on verge of a fall. The things on sale may be the result of sin, such as forged documents or stolen goods, or inducements to sin. Visitors may be sold things meant to arouse envy or lust, to buy things they don't need so they can deny them to rivals or to overindulge and gloat over bargains. Games of chance and skill in such markets tend to end badly, until the debtor must pay with sins - or souls.

Fairie markets are not uncommon, but usually hard for normal people to find. You need to know where and how to look. A fae market may or may not appear to be like a human one at first glance, and the goods on sale vary from odd variants of common items to strange and bizarre things that are normally not traded. Of course, with the fae, appearances are always misleading, and they become annoyed at obvious attempts to pierce their glamours. They have odd ideas of what counts as a fair trade, and negotiations can be bewildering. They tend to have little interest in coin, preferring odd things like golden hair, service or unspecified favors. (Don't go for unspecified favors.) It is best to avoid eating faerie food, as always.

For most people in Mythic Europe, the height of excitement is the fair, where strange things can be seen, new people met and new and unusual goods acquired. Fairs are by and large exempt from guild laws about who can sell what, too, and all sorts of luxuries are on sale. Redcaps frequent all the largest fairs, passing on messages and learning gossip as well as gathering vis. These fairs have a tent marked off as a Mercer House, where all magi are welcome and magical trades can be done. If the owner of the fair is also the local lord, it may well take place within a town itself, taking over properties for a time and congesting the town. If the owner can't do that, a fairground outside town will be erected, becoming a temporary second town or city. Town governments and fairs tend to be antagonistic, since the fair usually has the right to shut down the town's commerce during its hours, forcing the townsfolk to buy and sell at the fair, instead.

The great trading routes of Europe run on fair cycles, moving from one fair to the next. The most important of these at present is the Champagne Cycle, in which goods move from England to Flanders to Scandinavia to the Baltic to Italy to Provence to Flanders again to Bohemia to the Baltic once more and then to Iberia, all in a great cycle. The reason it's so important is that the courts of Champagne have given guarantee of personal security to all merchants and their property while at or traveling to or from the fair. They'll even pay you for goods stolen from you in transit. The reason this works is that they prohibit use of the fairs by anyone whose ruler refuses to help them keep this guarantee or pursue debtors. Fairs are held for six weeks at a time, usually, with two weeks break between them. Champagne fairs allow only setup during the first week, then ten days for cloth trading, 11 for leather trading and 19 for all other goods, followed by a few days to settle up accounts.

There's also the Five Fairs of Flanders, in Lille, Mesen, Ypres, Torout and Bruges, held between February and November. They're built on river trade of cloth. Similarly, the great fairs of England help bring in goods from the continent and offload British wool to Flanders and sell cloth to the people of England. The most important fair for magi, however, is the Hermetic Mid-Summer Fair, held in early June by the Greater Alps Tribunal. Here, magi can trade for vis, books, magic items and more. The Quaesitores hold auctions on the fourth day of the fair, and all exchanges must be in barter or vis. There is little hospitality at this fair, of course - just fields provided for tents, for the most part. Feasts are held to begin and end the fair, and all visiting magi are invited. Games and contests are arranged to keep the non-magi who come occupied while the magi do their business.

Next time: Merchant companies.


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: City and Guild

Starting late last century, the commercial networks of Europe changed drastically. New mines became viable, and metal became more common. The economy went from agrarian barter to use of money more often. This monetarization is accelerating, allowing nobles to settle their courts in the cities and the cities to expand. If current expansion continues, by 1300, cities will be ten times their current size, a size unknown since the falle of Rome. Cities breathe silver, as the saying goes, and by silver they live. This has led to the rise of a new type of person, a person who lives with risk and lies outside the standard societal divisions. These people are those who can reach into a city's lungs and pull forth their golden breath - the merchants.

A merchant company, also called a house, is a financial relationship formed between a handful of merchants usually related by blood or marriage. Many companies originate in a father and his sons. When the father dies, each son gets a share in the business, a partnership. The partners then select one of their own to manage the daily affairs: the capo, as the Italians call them. Capos often dispatch agents, sometimes called factors, to other cities to manage the partners' interests there. These are often sons of the partners. Some very rich people are partners in multiple companies at once. This structure is found throughout Europe, though the capo is known as a master in England or a chef in France. Any kind of merchant may work for a company, or a corporate body like an abbey or covenant. They receive a share of their profits, but generally less than an independent trader would make. On the other hand, there's far less risk.

And yes, a player can be a capo, though the game warns against allowing too much wealth from taking over the game. More commonly, a player will be a factor or a merchant adventurer, perhaps as a partner in a company. The least affluent form of merchant is the urban merchant, who lives in a city and sells wares at the market. Urban merchants are retailers, selling goods to the final consumer. They're handy for covenants to know and hire, as their homes make good accomodations for covenant agents and good resupply points for expeditions. Experienced merchants have little political power but often have excellent contact networks and information gathering skills. A poor urban merchant is merely a peddler, buying a basket of stock each morning and selling it throughout the day in the streets. It's barely better than begging. Your average merchant rents a house and sells staple goods with high turnover rates. Their lifestyle is precarious, for all their funds are in their stock, and loss of stock can be ruinous. A wealthy merchant will own their own home, trading out of a store near the market which they might own as well and most rich merchants trade in unusual goods for richer clients, or hold a monopoly on some commodity in their part of the city.

A local carrier is a merchant that follows a single route, carrying a stable commodity for many years. It's lucrative in places where a carrier or a small group of carriers have a monopoly on the right to transport a good. In other areas, carriers tend to supplement their income with craftwork, theft or day labor. Local carriers often travel together in caravans, often with pilgrims, to ward off banditry. Some serve nobles or monasteries, and most independent carriers are happy to work for some larger group like a covenant in exchange for a cut of the profits from the journey. An important variant of the carrier is the waterman, who ships goods along rivers and fords, as well as carrying passengers. In cities lacking bridges, like Venice or Paris, the Watermen's Guild is often powerful. A poor local carrier will typically have a single pack animal and may not even have a home, wintering in inns or with relatives and doing craftwork to pay for their stay. The average carrier can manage a four-wheeled cart, but will typically divide this onto pack animals due to poor roads. They may have a family and a rented home in a city, or a modest home in a small village on their route. They won't have any paid servants but may have family helping them. The wealthiest carriers run caravans of a dozen carts or so, or may own a coastal trading ship. Each will have a home with servants in a city, and often a warehouse and a second source of income. Some carriers are bigamists, with families and wives in two different cities on their route.

The merchant-adventurer is a speculator, generally supported by a crew and often a patron or company. They tend not to be very experienced, but they'll own a ship or caravan, often based out of a home port where the merchant lives. Essentially, they are like a carrier in most ways, save that they don't keep a regular route - they buy up goods and find places to sell them, traveling around as they desire. They are expected by their home cities to also act as naval defense when needed for only the richest cities have true warships.

The factor (derived from the Latin factotum, 'person who does everything'), also known as an agent, governor or administrator, oversees a company's assets in a city with a great deal of local autonomy. A factor may also be an independent trader managing multiple caravans or vessels rather than working as a merchant-adventurer any more. All factors have large, nice homes with a few servants and likely bodyguards - to fail to do so earns a poor reputation. The wealthier a factor is, the more opulently they will live, but rarely as extravagantly as their funding might allow. They don't like to seem overly spendthrift to their superiors, channeling excess wealth into private enterprises or charity. A covenant often has use for independent factors, acting as a company would towards them and allowing them to handle the covenant's financial business.

There's an entire sidebar on the dirty deeds merchants get up to in their competition, with rumormongering rules, bribery and piracy guidelines, assassination and sabotage...oh yes, there's room for lots of intrigue among merchants. Especially at the levels of factors. The Capo themself is the head of a merchant company, and typically does not travel often. They set grand strategy, appoint factors and play politics. They determine the culture of the merchant company and often act as factors for the headquarters. Others are primarily politicians and allow deputies to handle the actual business. Covenants cannot use capos, per se, but may enter mutually beneficial relations with one - after all, a capo can do favors for them with their immense (if diffuse) power. They're also one of the few people in Europe who can just straight-up pay for magic items in coin rather than trade in favors.

As for what the Order can do for merchants...well, frankly, it should be obvious. They can create commodities directly, manufacture goods by magic, use mental magic to help haggle, reduce crew requirements on a ship, shrink trade goods for easier travel, reduce travel time with magical aid and even replenish food and water without need for stopping by use of magic items - though this can hurt crew morale, as it cuts down on shore leave. And that's besides all the Roman innovations in business that magi might reintroduce, such as better business correspondence, pooled capital via permanent companies, deposit and investment banking, Roman-style travel insurance or more.

All that's left is nitty-gritty details on trade goods and costs, so...

The End!

Choose: Choices are: the True Lineage Houses of Hermes and their secrets (Houses of Hermes: True Lineages), the power of God and its impact on you (Realms of Power: The Divine), Mystery Cults (The Mysteries, Revised Edition), the Mystery Cult Houses (Houses of Hermes: Mystery Cults), more depth on Covenants (Covenants), the lost magic of the past (Ancient Magic), the Societates Houses (Houses of Hermes: Societates), France (Lion and Lily: The Normandy Tribunal), academic life (Art and Academe), the realms of magic and magical beings (Realms of Power: Magic), the Faeries (Realms of Power: Faerie), nobility (Lords of Men), other rival spellcasters of the world (Rival Magic), the Church (The Church) or the Middle East (Cradle and Crescent), Germany (Guardians of the Forests: The Rhine Tribunal), a book on various grand goals a magus might have (Hermetic Projects) or Greece (Sundered Eagle: The Theban Tribunal).

The Divine

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Realms of Power: The Divine

Okay, we're going to have to define some terms here. First: The Divine. The Divine is above all else, transcendent. Its nature touches all monotheistic faiths - any faith that allows for a single Universal Creator who is Good and Right. None are entirely right, none entirely wrong. The Divine stands above all things, omnipotent. It could, if it wished, utterly destroy the forces of Hell, Arcadia and the pagan gods of magic. God chooses, for reasons known only to Him, to allow these realms to exist, despite the ceaseless conflict between Heaven and Hell. The truth of the Divine realm is so transcendent that not even angels can fully grasp it. What can be known, though, is that the Divine seeks to better all people and save their souls. It wants people to seek it of their own free will and has created many worldly structures for that purpose - the Chuch, the Talmud, the Caliphates. These institutions are human, imperfect, both pure and corrupt, sincere and hypocritical. They hold power, so they attract the ambitious and impious. But they are also devout and holy.

The Divine aura is one of the most common auras in Mythic Europe, in the form of the Dominion. The Dominion aura is generated by the presence of believers. Holy sites unconnected to human worship instead are said to have Empyreal auras. However, unlike most auras, the strength of the Divine fluctuates due to its relation with human faith. (Interestingly, heretics like the Cathars and Gnostics also generate Dominion auras.) Within a Divine aura, awe at the holy and guilt over sin are stronger. The truly pious can even be intoxicated by this feeling most commonly at pilgrimage sites and during holy periods, obsessing over the holy sites and feeling the need to be alone to meditate on the nature of the holy. Gifted and magical beings feel differently - their power is assaulted by Divine auras, and they tend to suffer headaches, short temper and other pains. Further, they feel weak and insignificant. Despite this, they can still feel the euphoria associated with the Divine, reverence and unearthly joy. It is a mixed feeling. The fae are upset by the Divine, finding it confrontational, laying bear their true natures and making them question their purpose. Despite this, some faeries find the honesty and truth of the Divine comforting. The Infernal alone hates and fears the Divine without any positive feelings. They hate the light, truth and love that saturate Divine auras, making them feel self-loathing and dread. However, they often visit these areas to spread wickedness.

Most Divine beings are angels, but not all. Saints, unicorns, phoenixes and other beings possess Divine natures. Most of them live within divine regiones, interacting with humans only when they must. The most famous of these are the Nephillim, the descendents of angels. They were giants who existed before the Deluge, known as the Mighty Ones or Earth Born. They were said to be 300 cubits high - about 500 feet. Most were corrupted by the Infernal, and all were drowned in the DEluge save two pious Nephillim who rode upon the Ark of Noah. Most Nephillim now live within Divine regiones, and are not so huge as their ancestors. Many remain Divine, though many have also fallen, like their forebears, to the Infernal. They possess angelic qualities, but weakened by flesh and time. They do not age, but will eventually die, even if it is after millenia. They are immune to sickness and disease, but most eat great amounts of food to avoid going into comas and starving to death. They may procreate with humans, each other and giants.

Angels, however, remain the most common Divine beings. Angels are spiritual in nature, holy and possessing near-perfect knowledge of God. They are the messengers of God, beings of perfect intellect and life, free of corruption, death, matter, gender and age. All angels exist for a purpose, and all angels have always existed and always will. No new angels are made. The highest three Choirs of angel never leave Heaven unless they must for a mission. The next three divide their time between Divine regiones and Heaven, and the three least exalted Choirs have the most to do with the world. Angels serve God unwaveringly, but do have a certain independence when not acting on His orders directly, and the more potent angels can colocate. And no, you can't play an angel.

Angels are not infallible, it should be noted. They also possess free will, but as beings of pure intellect, they have complete judgement and are beings of pure goodness and holiness, so they always act in accordance with God's will. They are perfectly good, so their choices are always freely chosen to be perfectly good. They do not seek worship and will correct those who try to worship them. They do not answer prayers, but may intercede on behalf of a saint, particularly the Virgin Mary, who receives many requests for aid. Still, unless acting directly on behalf of God, an angel is fallible, can be wounded or even destroyed and is not truly immortal. In theory, an angel could disobey God and Fall, but this has never happened except the once, when Lucifer and a third of the Host Fell. All remaining angels have already made their decisions.

Angels do not possess senses as humans understand them. Rather, they take direct understanding from their surroundings by virtue of angelic intellect, using this awareness to move and act. They act directly upon the forms of a thing rather than the species or sensations generated, so illusions cannot fool them. They have complete understanding of a thing, not limited by senses, though they cannot read minds. They are unaffected by darkness and illusion, and their senses may not be targeted by magic, though wards can stop them from 'sensing' what is within the ward. They only other ways to stop an angel's senses are to kill it or trap it within a ward. Angels move by teleportation, instantaneously. They take up no space, for they have no bodies. If they take on physical form, they can still teleport but usually choose not to. Angels speak all the tongues of man, but only do so when in physical form. Otherwise, they communciate via illumination, spiritual expression which speaks directly to the soul. However, illumination is easily blocked by magic resistance, so they often have to speak physically to magi or others who resist magic. Every angel possesses both a common name and a True Name. Knowing an angel's True Name gives immense power over it as well as an Arcane Connection. Such names are not so well known as the True Names of demons, but some, particularly the Zoroastrians, were able to discover and record some of them.

Angels are not completely immune to Hermetic magic. While in physical form, they can be targeted and warded against by the Form that corresponds to their nature, and in spiritual form can only be touched by Mentem or Vim. Angels are, however, immune to pain, damage and fatigue in spiritual form, and are always immune to magic that would make them act contrary to their nature. Angels can be destroyed permanently by being stripped of their Divine might, but only a few angels have been destroyed, ever, and none by Hermetic hands. Angels cannot be summoned nor compelled by Hermetic magic, though they may choose to answer a summons if they want to. Some traditions, like the Jewish Merkavah, appear to be able to compel angels to answer a summons via their True Names. Most Hermetic magi tend to believe angels are fully immune to magic, or at least significantly protected against all forms of it.

We then get some angel stats, but they're for GM use. So let us, instead, talk about holy character options. On the Companion level, you can play the angel-blooded or a practitioner of holy magic, as well as wielding a relic. Relics are extremely potent. On the Mythic Companion level, you can play a Nephillim. Nephillim are all extremely strong and tough, bearing the blood and power of angels and the ability to sense holy and unholy power. They know much of the Divine realm and all speak Hebrew at least on the rudimentary level and all grow to potentially immense size over the centuries. They age very slowly indeed.

Some characters are so holy that, just by prayer and example, they can can inspire others to goodness. Either they perform good deeds, or pray and use Confidence. In either case, however, they require spiritual authority over those they inspire. Everyone who lives within a bishop's bishopric is under their authority. A parent has authority over their children, a teacher over their students and a host over their guests. Temporal authority works to cover anyone under your command or rule, and those who are inspirational may pray over anyone willing to listen. However, this blessing only works on those willing to listen and think about what they see, so this can be refused without cost.

Any character with Confidence may expend it to try and call for God's aid via prayer. This is not to be taken lightly, however, and it can cause divine wrath if used without need. It is, after all, very presumptious. Still, using this prayer can provide a vital boost to the character's skills, as God grants strength and power to accomplish hat was prayed for. Those with spiritual authority may invoke this blessing for their followers, as well, by praying on their behalf.

Secular and religious leaders are divinely appointed, ruling by the will of God, so they benefit from the Commanding Aura, so long as they were crowned or anointed via the proper religious ceremonies. God protects them from harm and grants them magic resistance, as well as making anyone without magic resistance feel naturally deferent to them. Note that royals must be crowned by the Pope, Patriarch or other proper religious authority. Religious leaders must be installed properly, and have greater protection from God. Wives of rulers or religious leaders gain the benefits as well. Rulers also commonly bear divine relics. If one of these leaders is excommunicated from their faith or similary sanctioned, the Commanding Aura is withdrawn from them but only if the ruler accepts the sanctions as valid. It is God, not the clergy, that make this decision, after all. As a result, the Commanding Aura is rarely actually withdrawn, as most rulers will consider themselves to be in the right most of the itme.

Next time: Miracles and Faith.


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Realms of Power: The Divine

Miracles are the magic of the Divine. Like maleficia or Hermetic magic, they combine two aspects - a method and a holy power. The three methods are thus: First, invocation , the addressing of God and the angels, commanding by name and asking for aid. This causes miracles, perhaps because they listen and intervene, or perhaps because you understand God's nature such that you can wield His power and speak with His voice. It requires Confidence to use. Second, meditation , relaxing the mind and body to concentrate on the Divine and enter an ecstatic state in which you gain insight into yourself and the Will of God. It can only affect the self or others who meditate with you. Finally, purity , creating holy effects by fasting, forgoing rest and purifying the spirit and flesh. This causes natural yet miraculous change to the world, coming from within the target rather than any apparent outside source. It is a highly tiring form of miracle.

These methods and powers are taught by holy traditions , often based on a particular faith, though they are not religions themselves but cultural and philosophical attitudes towards miracles. Each specializes in a handful of abilities, though those with True Faith may learn more than the specialties. You can only ever join a single tradition, however, to gain the benefits of their specialties. Those without True Faith can only learn the specialties. The book now presents the Ascetics , who practice ritual purity of mind and body to distance themselves from the physical and become closer to God. They tend to take vows of self-sacrifice, basing their lives on humility and obedience to Divine Will. Most Christian ascetics belong to a holy order, though some are hermits. However, ascetics come from all religions and are a good 'generic' tradition. They specialize in Adjuration, Cursing, Purity and second sight.

Unlike other magics, the holy powers require specific combinations - for example, you can't invoke to call on divine intervention, nor use purity to grant blessings. Failure to invoke a miracle properly, however, will bring Divine wrath upon you, punishing you with a tragedy of hubris - perhaps warping, being granted a flaw, suffering pain or worse. If you truly fuck up, you might bring down God's wrath on the entire region .

Adjuration is the holy power to summon and banish supernatural beings, as well as dispelling their abilities and compelling their cooperation. Adjuration calls on the power of God to assert God's authority over all things, and is also used to witness oaths and force supernatural beings to obey God's authority.
Adjuration by Invocation focuses on compelling creatures to act or use their powers. It can bind a creature to a contract, compel them to manifest, compel even demons to answer questions truthfully, compel supernatural beings to obey you, or even command and compel animals or humans at the greatest levels.
Adjuration by Purity creates holy bonds and protects against supernatural influence. It can dispel magical powers and ward against supernatural beings, create holy connections, drive off supernatural creatures or scry on supernatural creatures.

Blessing is the power to aid and protect from harm. Typically it is not subtle, and it can warp people.
Blessing by Invocation draws on supernatural aid to grant capabilities and otherworldly power. It can give magic resistance, bless actions, enchant tools, temper a Divine aura to encourage virtue or grant the power to inspire others with words.
Blessing by Meditation inspires and nurtures, healing and strengthening. It can help heal wounds over time, help resist aging, cause powerful emotion, strengthen or weaken personality traits or even transfer Confidence.

Cursing is the power to ruin God's foes and destroy their works. These are Old Testament curses, great and terrible.
Cursing by Invocation brings God's disfavor, bringing adversity and removing protections. It can strip supernatural might, increase botches, curse actions or make aging worse.
Cursing by Purity causes immediate harm, pain and ruin, banishing the essence of the offender. It destroys objects, weakens the body, destroys plants, harms people and animals, causes fatigue, weakens the mind, destroys the senses, inflicts disease and can even kill at the highest levels. One of the sample miracles is near impossible to use - it's level eighty-five , nearly no one has that much power - but will literally destroy an entire town.

Intervention causes inspiring or frightening changes in nature. Typically, it is used to frighten those who would harm God's places or grant holy information. Also, unexplained phenomena and miraculous events tend to fall under this. Intervention is God's direct will on the world, and it's always rather uncontrolled.
Intervention by Meditation is used to see the truth. It can detect active magic, perceive regiones, sense evil, create illusions, translate languages (spoken or written), harry sinners with terrifying images or cause a sign of God's will to manifest.
Intervention by Purity is transformative, changing and perfecting the body to God's will. It can prevent decay, transform materials, mend objects, transform living beings, heal people, create portals to Purgatory, create Divine regiones, or, at the highest levels, return the dead to life.

Transcendence causes spiritual transformations, which may also bring about physical change. It escapes the boundaries of the world to become closer to God.
Transcendence by Meditation transcends the body, leaving the physical shell behind in some way. It can make you untargetable by magic, allow you to see clearly through materials, project your senses to other places, walk on water, ignore pain and fatigue, survive without food, water or air, read minds, levitate, use telepathic communication, walk through solid matter, heal minds, become immune to physical damage or even teleport.
Transcendence by Purity strengthens the body and spirit with the spirit of God. It can resist damage, slow aging, restore fatigue, remove the need for rest, purge poison and disease and resolve aging crises.

Understanding seeks hidden information, even about the future or the Divine Will. It is often hard to understand or misleading, for the mortal mind was not meant to comprehend God.
Understanding by Meditation is the only method that works. It can prevent botches, enhance memory, grant helpful visions, predict the future and learn if an action is God's Will.

Wonders are grand miracles of God, summoning the power of natural forces. They are controlled, but God may cause them to manifest in unanticipated ways.
Wonders by Invocation is the only method that works. It can create dangerous substances, create natural substances that harm non-Divine supernatural beings, create plants, cause plants to mature, create and control a force of nature such as wind or fire, create nonliving objects, create living animals or even magical animals.

Now, let's talk about True Faith. True Faith cannot be possessed by those who worship the Devil or pagan gods - only those who venerate the Divine, though some pagans have had True Faith due to beliefs that venerated a single, infinite and universal Creator. For example, Plato, Aristotle, Apollonius and Plotinus all had True Faith. Animals, lacking reason, cannot possess True Faith; they can, however, be sainted - check out Saint Guinefort the Greyhound. (He was never officially recognized by the Church, but a Catholic sect in France venerated him until the 1930s.) Anyone who dies while possessing True Faith will become a saint in Heaven, even if the Church fails to recognize them. True Faith is the blessing and love of God, for those with it have His constant attention and rather reliably get their prayers answered. It is metaphysically different from normal piety and faith.

Hermetic magi know that True Faith is a power they don't all have, and that as its power rises, God grants more abilities. Among the most educated Hermetic theologians, there is much argument over whether vera fides , as they call it, is a purer form of the Gift, a True Gift. Before the Schism War, a group of magi attempted an experiment to learn the source and nature of vera fides, but it had to be abandoned. The Order understands that it is Divine, and the argument is that True Faith is the Platonic ideal of the Gift, what the Gift aspires to be. Some Hermetics may possess True Faith, which does not interfere with the Gift.

Those who possess True Faith may pray for a miracle, even if they lack the skills to call on miracles themselves. If they succesfully pray for a miracle, God Himself will cause it to happen. A miracle caused directly by God cannot be resisted by any means, has infinite penetration, and may never be undone, altered or even targeted by magic or lesser miracles. (God does not work against Himself.) It's easier to get God to help you if you don't need the help immediately, and if your need is great.

As the power of True Faith increases, it unlocks other abilities. At True Faith 2, you unlock Devotion , the perception and truth of the Divine. You receive premonitions of danger and may dispel illusions and glamours. At True Faith 3, you unlock Hope , unshakable confidence in the Divine. This makes your faith more potent when it helps you, and doubles any magic resistance you have against magic targeting your mind. At True Faith 5. you unlock Charity , the replacing of all urges with the urge to love God, making you inimical to sin. Your face glows with a candle's brightness, visible in dim light or darkness, and you create a Divine aura around yourself merely by being present, which extends as far as your voice can be heard.

Next time: Holy magi, holy societates.

Holy Magic

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Realms of Power: The Divine

A truly faithful and devout magus may seek to purge his magic of idolatrous influence, converting it to holy magic . It's hard, and you have to relearn a lot of things from Hermetic theory. It is not necessarily miraculous, but suffused with love and respect for God. It is magic still, and does not draw on Divine nature or Divine Will. It's hard to learn - a holy magus must be meaningfully touched by Divinity, in some form. This allows them to learn Holy Magic theory, how to use magic in harmony with the Divine. Holy magic has a poor reputation among the Order, so there are few teachers. Holy magi must reinvent every spell they know, and their ability to learn from normal Hermetic sources is hobbled. Likewise, they cannot easily teach non-holy magi. As a result, they're usually seen as hedge wizards.

Holy magi cannot use the standard gestures and words of the Order, for they are derived from pagan rites. They must learn to call on magic with silent and subtle prayers. They learn to replace Hermetic ceremonies with prayer and worship, utilizing holy Methods in their rituals. However, they must never use magic to sin, ever. If they knowingly break a commandment or commit evil with their magic, it simply ceases to function. They may still use standard Hermetic magic for such things, but most give up that magic entirely as sinful. Still, it's not unusual for a holy magus to regress and use Hermetic magic normally. The temptation to do so is strong. If they do so often, or commit tins, their holy magic may cease to work until they atone by pilgrimage and shows of faith. Holy magic is also a beacon for evil spirits, who wish to corrupt or destroy the holy magus. Some faeries also are bothered by holy magic, but not all. Hermetics tend to find the implication that they are idolatrous and pagan rather insulting, and most also see holy magic as requiring too many sacrifices to be a comparable power. Holy magi tend to be reclusive to avoid pissing them off.

So why would you ever learn holy magic? Well, it's attuned to Divine auras, and so it is not weakened in them. Further, it unlocks miracles for casting as well as normal spells. And it allows you to substitute your own fatigue for vis, locking away your strength for a time to avoid having to use vis. Plus, you get access to new ranges, durations and targets, largely derived from your faith and the act of prayer.

Some groups within the Order, the Holy Societates, help teach Holy Magic. The first of these are the Sol Invictus , originally a Roman cult who decided to worship one God, the immortal Creator, in the form of the sun-god Sol, or as they called Him, Deus Sol Invictus, the Unconquered Sun. Despite being Divine monotheism, they retained Roman cult practices, quietly gaining power and influence until the early 3rd century AD, when Emperor Elagabulus declared it the State religion. As other priests began to integrate their rites, they lose their focus and drifted away from monotheism, losing their mystic power. That might have been the end had not some of them continued to practice in secret the idea of the One Roman God. In 270, the son of a Sol priestess became Emperor Aurelian, unifying the empire by declaring Deus Sol Invictus the official deity of the state. However, instead of worshipping him as head of the pantheon, Aurelian declared that he was the sum of attributes of all gods, and thus to be worshipped alone. His successor, Constantine, was a great supporter of the Sol cult until he converted to Christianity and changed the Empire's religion to the Holy Church. Other cults faltered, but the Sol Invictus did not, and remained an influence in the east. When the Crusaders took the city of Emesa in 1110, a group of Sol cultists there took pilgrimage to Rome, where they revived their practices in ancient temples, converting them to churches. They still call themselves Invicti, but really, they have only a few differences from Christianity. First, they hold that God is the sun, and Christ His earthly manifestation. They perform ritual sacrifice as a penance, sacrificing animals that represent idolatry. Unlike the Church, they accept that the old gods existed and still exist, but believe them to be mortal. They seek to undermine, imprison and destroy those pagan gods which seek worship. In the 800s, the Order of Hermes found the Invicti, and several joined House Jerbiton. They developed holy magic, and by 1220, they have become a society within the Order. They're very unpopular, of course, especially because they regularly molest the fae in the form of pagan gods, so new Invicti mut be discreet and very loyal before they learn the powers of the Invictus. They specialize in Cursing, Invocation, Holy Magic and the use of mass ceremony to generate power.

Now, let's talk about Christianity . In 1220, it is an immensely powerful faith, both temporally and spiritually. Since 1095 and the First Crusade, there has been concerted effort to retake the Holy Land and Jerusalem, but mistakes are constantly made - like the sacking of Constantinople. Four Crusades have been launched, and only the first could be called a success in any real way. Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II has promised a Fifth Crusade, but so far, he hasn't done anything. The Church fears subversion, cracking down on heresy and beginning the Albigensian Crusade. Soon, the Inquisition will be founded by those same fears. The Franciscan and Dominican friars are developing.

The Church has declared that there are seven sacraments: baptism, the Eucharist, penance, confirmation, the taking of holy orders, marriage and extreme unction, also known as the Last Rites. All sacraments grant use of Faith even without possession of True Faith, but only once. Until you use it, you can't get more. Baptism cleanses original sin and other evil influences, drives away possessing spirits and ends any non-permanent supernatural effects not tied to the Divine. However, it only works once - if you've been baptised already, you don't get the benefits listed above. The name given in baptism is protected by the Divine and does not count as a True Name for magical purposes. All other sacraments require baptism. If you break from the Church, you lose all benefits of baptism, though true repentance can renew them. Baptism creates a holy connection between you and your godparents (or, if there are none, the priest).

Confirmation is the receiving of the holy spirit. It grants a Faith point for use, but the benefit is lost if you are excommunicated or leave the Church. You may only take confirmation once in your life. Marriage gives both husband and wife a Faith point, but the benefit is lost if the marriage is annulled or if you sin against your spouse. The marriage blessing also ensures an easy childbirth and healthy offspring if it lasts until the child is born, and it ties the spouses with a holy connection. Penance, the act of confession, places you in a state of grace if you fulfill your penance and grants you Confidence while on the task. Until you complete your penance, you have a holy connection to the confessor, which is broken if the priest ever reveals the substance of your confession to anyone.

The Eucharist is the most holy sacrament, also known as the Mass or the Holy Communion. The priest converts bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, granting a Faith point to anyone who eats of it, so long as they are in a state of grace (defined as 'without mortal sin'). When one is ordained into the holy orders, one receives a FAith point, and this is repeated whenever you rise in rank in the Church. Further, it gives you spiritual authority over whatever area you are caretaker for and creates a holy connection to the bishop performing the ceremony. Extreme unction, AKA the Last Rites, cleanses the soul of mortal sin as penance does, placing you in a state of grace. Further, it grants a Faith point as the Eucharist does, and speeds the soul's journey to the afterlife. A person for whom Extreme Unction has been performed cannot be touched by magic for three days, which is usually enough time to bury them on consecrated ground, which immunizes the soul against necromancy and magic.

Incidentally, if a Christian realm is placed under interdict, the Divine aura of the realm weakens over time, as the people suffer the weight of their sins. Very nasty. Also, how hard is it to not sin by magic use for a Christian? Well: if you kill by magic, you owe seven years penance, three of them on bread and water. If you do magic for the sake of love but do not kill, as a layman you do penance for half a year or a priest does it for a year to three years on bread and water. If magic is used to deceive a woman about childbirth in any way, you add six forty-day periods to that to avoid being accused of homicide. Conjuring storms is seven years penance, three on bread and water. Taking auguries is sacrilege and is three years on bread and water. Divination is five years, three on bread and water. Going in the guise of a stag or calf in the Kalends of January is three years penance. Drawing lots for divination is three years on bread and water. Making vows anywhere besides a church is three years on bread and water. Taking away the mind of a man is five years, one on bread and water. Making amulets and possibly all magic items is three years, one on bread and water. Eating in pagan locations is two years, or forty days if by accident. Sacrifice in pagan worship is three years. And yeah, that makes it pretty hard to be Hermetic and not sin. It's a real challenge. This in addition to normal sins anyone can do.

The Eastern or Orthodox Church is highly ceremonial, unlike the Western Church, with greater focus on mystery and miracle. Monasticism is very popular in the East, and the Orthodox Church has remained stable for centuries, barring the Iconoclastic Controversy of the 700s to 800s, when several works of religious art were burned as idols. The major theological differences between Eastern and Western Churches are outside the scope of the review and are largely detail-oriented, though extremely important to the people involved in the disputes.

Saints, now, saints are a thing. You can ask a saint for a miracle! It's harder if you're not asking your patron saint, haven't been donating and have done unchristian acts lately, or if you've gotten a miracle lately. If the saint fails to aid you, however, it is common practice to threaten the saint into compliance, for saints are temperamental. Even monks overseeing the saint's relics would do this. It is made easier if you defile relics, berate the saint or bar others from worship. However, if you fuck up, the saint may well curse you.

Now, character options and holy traditions! The Cantores are a largely Christian tradition of worship through music. They practice Holy Music, a method identical to Meditation in use but relying on devotional song. Their music is beautiful and holy, and the Cantores tend to oppose common music, seeing the bawdy and raucous music of entertainers as sacrilegious, using God's gift of music in the wrong way and perhaps even calling on Infernal power. They specialize in Blessing, Holy Music, Intervention and the sensing of holy and unholy power.

The Priory of Saint Nerius follow the path of Nerius, a Criamon magus whom many believe became a saint, though he is not officially canonized. He is, however, the unofficial patron saint of the Order of Hermes. Many tales tell of his prowess in predicting danger and his unorthodox faith, as well as his thoughts on the morality of magic and how to align it with God. The Neriusians seek to convince the Pope to canonize Nerius, while also keeping their Hermetic nature secret and avoiding persecution for their unorthodox beliefs. They hold that magical beasts and fairies should be tolerated and possess souls and that the Garden of Eden is Arcadia. They are a Benedictine order with modifications for Hermetic study, and have recently begun adapting to Franciscan ideals. So yeah, monk wizards. They practice Holy Magic, Intervention, Purity and the sensing of danger.

And, of course, we have a new breed of Mythic Companion: the Perfecti . The Perfecti are the leaders of the Cathar movement of France. They are Christian, but follow a dualist doctrine contrary to the Church's practices. They hold that the physical world is by nature evil, while the immaterial, spiritual world is of God and naturally good. They deny that Christ physically incarnated and condemn marriage as an institution. They maintain physical purity by strict denial of all sexual desire and vegetarian diet. All Perfecti are hunted by the Church, but possess powers of Purity, Transcendence and second sight.

Next time: The Ars Notoria


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Realms of Power: The Divine

As everyone knows, Solomon was the finest of the ancient wizards, granted knowledge and power on top of his own skills by God. The most ardent student of Solomonic magic, Apollonius, recored the exact procedures used to gain this Divine knowledge into the Ars Notoria, the Notary Arts. They mix magical recitations and geometry with devotional prayer. The individual formulas are notae, the prayers orations and the combination of the two into magic is called a ring, or level of wisdom. The rings grant divine skill in academics and virtue. Copies of Apollonius' texts can be found, though some call them witchcraft. The truth is that they are a Divine art, aimed for lofty goals of scholarship, so the Church holds that their use is not considered to be anything but God's will. They are a wholly Christian tradition, available only to Christians; Solomon was a Jew and is honored by Islam, but Apollonius firmly linked the Ars Notoria to Christian prayers and beliefs, specifically asking for the Christian God to grant its powers.

The Book of Solomon and Keys of Solomon are rare, and they are what you need to study the Ars Notoria. It is said that copies exist in the University of Paris, the Jewish ghetto in Jerusalem and in the library of the Bishop of Armagh in Ireland. Studying the texts is not easy, however - they are written in four languages: Latin, Greek, Hebrew and Chaldean, an ancient Aramaic tongue. You need to understand all four, and they all use different alphabets. You can't translate the orations - the mix of languages is key to the magic. To properly use the Ars Notoria, you must have the Gift, understanding the true meaning of the text through it, though you need not be a Hermetic magus.

Each Ring of Solomon requires a full season to recite, including the meditations needed and the days of rest required after the recitations...at least the first time you go through them. Later recitations are easier. You must learn them in order and recite them in order until you have successfully managed all the orations for a ring. Given the time it takes, you will usually lose the benefits of a ring before finishing the next. That's fine, you can keep going. You can also go back and re-recite any ring you've already completed without problems.

The First Ring of Solomon must be performed in Spring or Autumn. It grants complete knowledge of philosophy and science, as well as extreme skill with communication, rhetoric and eloquence, both of which will wear off after a few seasons, depending on how powerful your recitation was. (This is true of the effects of all Rings.) The Second Ring of Solomon bestows extreme theological skill and knowledge, as well as Divinely enhanced intellect. It must be recited in Winter. The Third Ring of Solomon bestows knowledge of medicine and the curing of disease, as well as magical power to cure a chosen disease with a touch. This ring can be done in any season. The Fourth Ring of Solomon summons a lesser angel as a guide and mentor, which may teach you secrets of theology, law, the artes liberales, philosophy and medicine. Even after the Ring's duration ends, that angel is your personal angel and will always be the one to appear to you. If it ever believes you to be acting impiously or against God's will, it will abandon you prematurely. Further, it may cancel the effects of any Ring, and will do so if it thinks that will help guide you back to righteous action. The Fifth Ring of Solomon grants the power to sense holy and unholy might, as well as tell what realm it comes from. It can even give you insight into the abilities of those creatures you sense. Demons cannot hide their nature from this Ring, and it must be performed in Summer. The Sixth Ring of Solomon must be done in Spring, and it grants the power to see the future by peering into the Divine Plan. It grants knowledge of whether actions are appropriate in God's eyes more than it does the true future, but it can still look into the future. The Seventh Ring of Solomon is the final Ring, and what it does is not grant new knowledge, but perfect understanding of all knowledge you already have. You can't botch while this Ring is in effect, ever. However, your patron angel will carefully watch you and will strip of your powers if you succumb to the cardinal sin of Pride.

Besides the Rings, learning the Ars Notoria lessens the effects of the Divine aura on your magic, which can erase any penalty completely if you learn enough. Further, while a Ring of Solomon is active, you are immune to Divine warping.

Now, let's talk about Islam . Islamic theology as a whole is quite different from Christian theology; however, some things are similar. Monotheism, for one, and a belief in the eventual resurrection of the dead. The Sunni are the dominant sect of Islam, and Sunni doctrine holds that though God has preordained all things, humans still possess free will - God gives the power to act, but it is people who choose to act and are responsible for their actions. The veneration of saints is not officially condoned; there is no expectation of saintly intercession by respected holy spirits. However, there is a practice of visiting the tombs of the holy to gain baraka , a blessing. Muslims may invoke baraka in the same way that Christians can invoke saints, but with limitations. You must be at a shrine dedicated to the holy figure you're invoking baraka from. You may invoke the power of the Qur'an anywhere. Muslims may never threaten the forebears; it would be blasphemy. (Muslim invocation of the khawass al-Qur'an, or the mystic power of the Qur'an, is quite potent, though the miracles the Qur'an can grant are rather limited.)

Islamic law is based on the Qur'an, and is referred to as al-sharia. It has a few other sources, but the Qur'an is the first and foremost. After that, the Sunna are considered - the collection of hadiths, or narratives of the Prophet on how to be a good Muslim. Third is the Ijma', legal debates settled by the Islamic legal community. Last are the qiyas, precedents from parallel cases. The Islamic prohibition of alcohol is based on qiyas - the Qur'an forbids wine for its intoxicating properties, so logically all other alcohol should be forbidden by this precedent. Magic is permitted under Islamic law if used for good purposes, so what you really need to worry about as a Muslim wizard is to not use your magic for evil or to break any normal sharia law. (The punishment for evil magic, by the way, is beheading.)

Naturally all good Muslims, wizard or no, must uphold the Pillars, which briefly summarized are: shahada , the declaration of faith, which causes momentary discomfort to Infernal beings, as a note. Salat , prayer at dawn, midday, mid-afternoon, sunset and evening. This requires entering a state of ritual purity via either immersion in water or lesser washing of the face, hands, feet and head, depending on impurity. Islamic prayer strengthens the Dominion in areas where it is done for the duration of the prayer. Zakat , charity, requires between 2.5 and 10 percent of your wealth to be given to the poor or other causes, and Infernal beings may not handle money or goods given as payment of zakat, suffering excruciating pain if they try. This lasts only until another person touches the money or goods. Sawm , the Ramadan fast, increases Muslim Dominion auras during Ramadan (and other Islamic holidays). Last, hajj , the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in your life. You must be pure throughout the hajj, and any hajjaj becomes a pious Muslim, touched by the will of God, though it can degrade later.

Variations on Islam include the Sufi mystics, who are the closest the religion has to a monastic tradition. They tend to be seen as potential sources of heresy but also very pious and devoted, and authorities have started to encourage the sufis. Very pious sufis are known as zahids, able to work miracles. There are also a number of Shi'i sects, who did not believe the CAliphate should be hereditary, or at least not in the manner it became. They have slightly different theology and legal practice and tend to reject the legal debate of ijma'. The Shi'i most likely to show up in a game are the Ithna'ashari Shi'is, the most numerous sect, who recognize a line of twelve imams, the Fatimids, who split from the Ithan'ashari in the 700s and followed the imam Isma'il. The Fatimids ruled Egypt and North Africa until 1171, claimed the title of imam and focused on inner truth and the cycle of history. They were surprisingly tolerant of Sunni Islam and didn't seek to convert their subjects. It is possible that some Fatimid imams have survived. Finally, the Assassins (which is a word derived from the derogatory hashishi, users of hashish), a term that refers to the Nizari sect of Hasan-i Sabbah. Much of what is known of the Nizaris was written by their foes, but they are said to be trained as fanatics from youth, and drugged to prepare the mind for Paradise as well as sent out to murder. Saladin is said to have besieged Sinan, a fortress of the Nizari, but withdrew after they left a poisoned dagger in his tent. The descendants of the fourth MAster of the Nizaris, Hasan, claim to be descended from the legendary Nizar and thus true imams.

The Almohads of Spain are neither Sunni nor Shi'i, incorporating ideas of both and other schools. They promote transcendence and oneness with God, and refuse to refer to God in anthropomorphic terms save as metaphor. The Almohads claim to be the rightful caliphs of the entire Muslim world due to a declaration in 1121 by their founder, Ibn Tumart, who claimed to be the mahdi , the final prophet. The Almohads tend to leave justice in the hands of their Sunni subjects, and like the Fatimids, the Almohad faith is largely one of the rulers, not the subjects.

Now, character options! Muslims receive slightly different effects from a few things, largely education backgrounds, We also get some new traditions! The Sufis practice group meditation and poetry in order to achieve closeness with God. They share their rituals with anyone who comes to take part, but the true benefits are hard to grasp for non-Sufis. They specialize in Meditation, Understanding, Transcendence and mass ceremonies.

The Zoroastrians have a sect of holy wizard-priests, called the Magoi. Magoi must fight against evil and the forces of the Angra Mainyu, or Destructive Spirit. We'll talk more about Zoroastrianism and the Magoi in Cradle and Crescent, but these guys may be the ancestors of Hermetic magic, and the word 'Magu', the singular of Magoi, is probably where 'magus' comes from. Some Zoroastrian refugees made it to Europe and joined the Order of Hermes, continuing their tradition of magoi in House Flambeau, integrating their holy magic with Hermetic theory. They are mystery cult within the House, focusing on Holy Magic, Wonders, Invocation and the sensing of holy and unholy power.

And last, a new Mythic Companion: The Zahids , exceptionally ascetic sufis. Many are shaykhs, the leaders of Sufi tariqas (read: monasteries, basically), but not exclusively. Zahids are so pious that they can do miracles, and are often able to grant their followers miraculous power, too. All zahids are skilled in Meditation, Understanding and the use of second sight.

Next time: The Jews.


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Realms of Power: The Divine

Jews have it rough in Christendom. They are oppressed, second-class citizens, and they know it. They are forbidden to perform any job not expressly forbidden to Christians (such as moneylending at interest) or those not subject to Guild laws (such as inter-city or wholesale trading). Jews may worship if discreet, but may not marry Christians, and conversion to Judaism is a crime. Often a hanging crime. Many Christians and Jews have individual friendships, but the religion as a whole is mistrusted. Many Christians believe Jews responsible for the death of Christ, and so capable of any evil. The Jews are stoic, however, for they know that they are God's chosen, and if they persevere, Heaven awaits.

There are two major branches of Judaism: the Church-influenced Ashkenazim, who dwell in France and Germany primarily, and trace their origins to Italy and Palestine, and the Arab-influenced Sephardim, who hail from Babylon and dwell in Muslim Spain primarily. The Sephardim admire Arab culture and have adapted to Muslim ideals of art and scholarship. They frequently serve in government positions in Andalusian realms and have much social and intellectual pull. They speak Arabic, are often masters of the textual Torah and skilled poets of Hebrew with Arabic meter. Sephardic philosophers take from many places, and they have extended Jewish culture to new horizons of science and philosophy. Their religious leaders are often courtiers to the caliphs of Spain and researchers into new ideas. Some of the Sephardic Jews are considered the finest minds of the time, such as the famous Rabbi Moses ben Maimon, or Maimonides, who wrote the only comprehensive treatment of Jewish law known in 1220, the Mishneh Torah. However, the invasion of the Almohads in 1147 and 1148 wiped out many of the Andalusian Jewish communities, driving thousands to northern Spain, Provence, North Africa and Egypt.

The Ashkenazim did not integrate Christian thought into their lives as the Sephardim did Muslim thought. In fact, most Ashkenazi scholars have only thinly-veiled contempt for most Christian theologians, whom they see as simple. They draw their values from the Talmud, the great commentary on the Jewish oral traditions, and the Midrash, moralistic tales of Biblical days. The Ashekenazim are largely merchants, and follow their own laws, as Christian society was closed to them. With the Arab conquest and the rise of the Carolingians, merchants and rabbis of the Ashkenazim have moved to France and Germany from Italy, bringing new energy to the Jews in those areas. The Jews that survived the violence in the Rhineland after the First Crusade focused on regaining their culture, and by 1150, they had native literature of all kinds. Their study of Judaic texts focused on mysticism, and the fathers of the modern Ashkenazi are remembered as initiates into the Divine mysteries. German Jewish mystics, called Chasidim, have focused on the ascetic, the martyr and the penitent as Jewish ideals, adapting these ideas to the Jewish idiom. Rabbis gather in synods to discuss legislation on problems for which neither Torah nor Talmud are directly applicable. Most notably, laws on the protection of women, especially economically, and severe discipline against those who chose Christian courts over Jewish law. Provence is also a breeding ground for new JEwish mystics, though some of their ideas are criticized as heretical by orthodox rabbis...but their rituals are very orthodox, and they accept the Torah as divine text, so that helps. In time, they will become part of the rabbinical elite.

As a note: Being a Jew in England really sucks , they are incredibly oppressed and will soon be the targets of a paranoid mania. In France, the Jews have had a heard time under the royals, and many have left for Provence, Iberia or Germany. The German Jews are doing quite well for themselves, and most cities have a Jewish quarter. Jews are respected in academia in Germany. Oh, and one thing: there is, currently, a Jewish kingdom in the Caucasus mountains. You see, the Khazars, a Turkish people, met with Byzantine and Persian Jewish refugees in the 700s or so. Many converted, including several major royals, and Khazaria became a buffer state between the Islamic world and Christendom following a series of wars in the late 700s and early 800s. Khazaria is also on a major trade route, and Jewish traders from Persia often pass through it on the way to Europe or China. Under the kings Obadiah and Bulan, rabbinic Judaism flourished, and the attempts of Saint Cyril in 860 to convert them to Christianity failed because they'd become Jews. (The Slavs accepted him better.) King Bulan became a Jew in 861 after holding a grand debate between Christians, Muslims and Jews. Obadiah established synagogues and Rabbinical schools. However, in the late 900s and early 1000s, the Rus conquered much of Khazar land. In 1259, Khazaria will, at last, be destroyed by invasions of Russians and Mongols. The Khazar Jews will spread into Germany and Hungary.

The Jews of Byzantium, especially in Constantinople, have done quite well. The worst law against them is that they may not ride horses, and the Jews of Constantinople are renowned craftsmen and merchants. The Greek citizens, however, occasionally strike against the Jews or defile the Jewish Quarter. Despite this, the Jews are noted by the writer Benjamin of Tudela as wealthy, kind and charitable, despite the anti-Semitic actions of the Greeks. However, in 1204, the sacking of Constantinople in the Fourth Crusade killed or expelled many Jews, scattering them throughout the Byzantine Empire. Jews are legally protected by Byzantine law, but may build no new synagogues nor serve in government. They must read their scripture in Greek or Latin, and Passover must be moved so it falls before Easter.

The Jews of Syria are considered to be of equal status as those in the Holy Land of Israel. Their conditions were greatly improved by the Arab conquest of 656, and many Persian Jews moved to Syria in the 1100s, bringing a boom in commerce, craft and banking. Under the Fatimids, a Jew actually ran Syria, giving Jews many government positions. In modern times, the Syrian Jews are mostly in Damascus, Tyre and Aleppo. Jews are allowed under Muslim rule to live in Jerusalem and build a Jewish Quarter near the Wailing Wall. They stayed there until the First Crusade of 1099, which destroyed almost all of the Jewish communities of Jerusalem, the last of which fell in 1153. Many Jews of Egypt and Syria have resettled in Jerusalem following its conquest by Saladin in 1187.

It is reported that there were over 40 thousand Jews in Baghdad in the late 1100s, with 28 synagogues and 10 Jewish schools. Baghdad is extremely important to modern Jewry, for it is the home of the Exilarch, in theory the spiritual leader of all Jews. He is greatly respected by the Islamic rulers of Baghdad, though his actual authority outside the city is questionable. (He does, at least, hold spiritual authority, even if no one listens to him.)

Judaism has no formal beliefs required to be a Jew - actions are seen as more important than doctrine, and the closest to comprehensive dogma anyone ever got was Maimonides' list of thirteen principles which he considered the minimum of Judaism: God exists. God is one and unique. God is incorporeal. God is eternal. Prayer is to be directed to God alone and no other. The words of the prophets are true. Moses was the greatest prophet. The Written Torah and Oral Torah were given to Moses. There will be no other Torah. God knows the thoughts and deeds of humanity. God will reward the good and punish the wicked. The Messiah will come. The dead will be resurrected. However, within this framework there's a lot of room for personal opinion - Judaism makes very few abstract statements about the universe, except on the nature of God.

Jewish law, or halakhah, is made up of commandments, or mitzvot, laid out in the Torah, instituted by Rabbis or obeyed by long custom. All are equally binding, though penalties for violation vary. The Torah's laws are punished more heavily. At the heart, however, are the 613 mitzvot laid down in the Torah. Some are explict commands ('do not murder') and others are less clear ('eat and be satisfied and bless the Lord your God' has generally been interpreted as saying grace after meals). Some can only be managed by Talmudic logic ('do not boil a kid in its mother's milk' has been inferred to mean generally that milk and meat should not be mixed). Life is valued above all else, and only the prohibitions on murder, idolatry and incest are considered important enough that they cannot be waived if it means saving a life. Jews must never do something that would shorten a life. Death is sad and natural, but not something you go looking for.

Can you be a Jewish magus? Well, that's a hard one. Let's look at all the commandments magi typically violate. LEt's see...#319: do not bow down to an idol, even if that is not how it is worshipped. #322: Do not lead the children of Israel astray into idolatry. #326: Hate those who entice others to idolatry. #332: Do not adopt the ways of idolaters nor their customs. #348: Do not tattoo the body like idolaters. #352: Do not show favor to idolaters. #330: Do not swear by an idol to its worshippers, nor cause them to swear by it. There goes the Hermetic Oath! #335: Do not practice astrology. #336: Do not practice enchantment. #337: Do not consult ghosts. #338: Do not consult wizards. #339: Do not perform magical herbalism. #340: Do not perform sorcery. #341: Do not practice snake charming. #342: Again, no ghosts. #343: No zombies, either. #344: And no wizards, again. So yeah, being a Jewish magus is hard if you plan to be a good Jew. And remember, swearing by a pagan god or idol is the worst possible sin. However, there is a sect of Jews, the Karaites, who believe in strict literal interpretation of the Torah and might be able to manage a Jewish form of Hermetic magic.

As a note, Jewish traditions of Shabbat for a magus allow labwork and study, as it is seen as improving one's self. However, no magic or using magic items on Shabbat, nor fighting, cooking, carrying burdens, lighting fires or craftwork unless it is to save someone from harm. Keeping Shabbat is one of this vital, fundamental parts of Judaism, so don't forget that. Now, character options!

Jews have access to a few unique forms of mysticism and magic. Some jews practice the art of crafting amulets , creating miracles locked within items much as Hermetics can lock spells into items via enchantment. Jews often study Dream Interpretation , as it is commonly believed that dreams are how God communicates. They may use it in place of Meditation, either by dreaming or discussing the dreams of others. Other Jews practice Gematria , a form of numerology using the Torah's text and other books to achieve unity with God. This, too, may be used in place of Meditation, allowing you to use books to boost your magic. Jews also possess the Kabbalah , a variant of Invocation utilizing the Names of God. It is highly personal and draining to use, however, even compared to normal Incantation. The benefit? You can make golems, divine beings brought to life by God. Golems are powerful Divine beings, and while they live, the maker's Confidence is permanently reduced, for it is tied up in the golem. Lastly, Jews practice Merkavah , a holy ritual to make contact with supernatural beings, wherever they are, forming a holy connection by your knowledge of the being. It is a tiring ritual requiring fasting and effort, and takes a full season to complete. However, you will learn the entity's True Name, and may summon it. Merkavah may also be used in place of Purity, though it is, again, very slow and tiring.

The Baal Shem are a tradition of folk healers among the Jews, also known as the Masters of the Name. Their power comes from invoking the names of God, and it is seen as a kind of craftwork more than religious tradition. They often work as amulet crafters as well. They are, in essence, divine hedge wizards and folk magicians, and as a phenomena they are pretty much exclusively Jewish. Their specialty is Adjuration, Blessing, Invocation and the crafting of amulets.

The Kabbalists are a uniquely Jewish tradition as well, and are one of the most flexible holy traditions. They study Kabbalah, Gematria and Merkavah, but as the Tree of Life which they study is a mystical idea tied to all virtue and holiness, drawing on the ten sefirot, or emanations of God and the 22 paths between them, together the tools used by God to create the world, they may choose any three Divine supernatural powers, Methods or Holy Powers as their specialty, one of which must be a method from among Kabbalh, Gematria and Merkavah, and the other two of which can be anything. Adjuration and Blessing are common, as are Dream Interpretation, Understanding or Transcendence. Holy Music has even begun to show up among the German Ashkenazim. Further, the kabbalists have quantified the powers and levels of Faith into the ten sefirot. Many Hermetics who have studied Kabbalah believe there is a link between the sefirot and the ten Forms, but no one is sure quite what, what it would mean or if it would have actual practical use to know.

Side note: the Order as a whole is aware of Kabbalah due to a conflict that broke out in 1018 between some Flambeau magi and Jewish mystics in Barcelona. A truce was negotiated, stating that the Order of Hermes and the Order of Geonim, as the Jews referred to themselves, would not interfere with each other so long as the other side did not. It was the first time the Order ever relaxed their 'join or die' policy. To most kabbalists, 'Order of Geonim' means descent from the mystics of Babylon and applies to all kabbalists, but there are rumors of a secret order of potent kabbalists dedicated to protecting the Jews and punishing their foes. Due to the Barcelona treaty, these Geonim are careful to avoid crossing the Hermetics, focusing instead on mundane threats. No one is sure what would happen if war were to be restarted between the two groups.

The Karaites are a sect of Jews who discard rabbinic interpretation and theology, rejecting the Oral Law and interpreting the commandments only via literal reading of the Tanakh. They claim that the contradictory opinions of the rabbis who wrote the Mishnah and Talmud distort the meaning of the text, and Karaite means 'Follower of the Scripture'. Karaite philosophy has many similarities to Islam, and have many religious differences - for one, they use a different calendar to avoid "observing times", and no holiday lasts more than one day for them. Also, they don't celebrate certain holidays, and allow milk and meat to be mixed if the animals are of different species. Also, they may not marry close relatives or non-Karaites, who are seen as unclean. It started in Persia in the late 900s, and in 1220, relations between normal Jews and Karaites are poor. They live apart, in seperate Jewish communities. Karaites do not seek converts, and continue their religion via their children. Karaites with the Gift may join the Order of Hermes if they practice holy magic, as they hold that the laws against divination and enchantment do not apply to magic that comes directly from God. However, they refuse to allow other magi to cast magic on them, for it is unclean. Karaites are typically found in House Ex Miscellanea. They practice Holy Magic, Purity, Transcendence and the crafting of amulets. Their Hermetic magic is flawed by their belief system - they cannot use longevity rituals without breaking their faith, unless they make it personally or it is made by another karaite. The same is true of healing magic, and they may not use their magic to heal non-karaites. Should they accept any form, magical or mundane, of healing from a non-karaite or break any of their commandments, they lose their magic until they atone.

Oh, right, and a new Mythic Companion: Kabbalists . These Kabbalists are more potent than most, having studied the Kabbalah for years. They are greatly educated and respected among Jews, with a deep understanding of the holy. They tend to practice Adjuration, Blessing, Kabbalah or Merkavah.

The End!

Choose: Choices are: the True Lineage Houses of Hermes and their secrets (Houses of Hermes: True Lineages), Mystery Cults (The Mysteries, Revised Edition), the Mystery Cult Houses (Houses of Hermes: Mystery Cults), more depth on Covenants (Covenants), the lost magic of the past (Ancient Magic), the Societates Houses (Houses of Hermes: Societates), France (Lion and Lily: The Normandy Tribunal), academic life (Art and Academe), the realms of magic and magical beings (Realms of Power: Magic), the Faeries (Realms of Power: Faerie), nobility (Lords of Men), other rival spellcasters of the world (Rival Magic), the Church (The Church) or the Middle East (Cradle and Crescent), Germany (Guardians of the Forests: The Rhine Tribunal), a book on various grand goals a magus might have (Hermetic Projects) or Greece (Sundered Eagle: The Theban Tribunal).


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Dice say Cradle and Crescent!

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Cradle and Crescent

Since we've got the basics of Islam out of the way, let's mention some demons who've made the while Christian/Muslim conflict worse: the Unholy Trinity, demons whom Christians believe Muslims worship. The first is Mahound, a parody of prophets who has immense ears to mock the fact that prophets hear revelations. Termagant is second, a hideous hag who spits venom and has jagged claws for fingernails. Third is Apollyon, a hunchbacked, ugly parody of Apollo who drips with acid. These demons seek to cause hostility between Christians and Muslims. Fun!

Anyway, let's talk history. The Middle East was once ruled by Babylon and Assyria, whose lands stretched from the Fertile Crescent to Syria and the Holy Land. The ancient Mesopotamians were pagans who worshipped fairie gods. However, these gods proved their downfall in 539 BC, when the Babylonian King Belshazzar angered God by drinking from the sacred vessels of the Temple of Jerusalem, which his ancestor Nebuchadnezzar had sacked. Three days later, his empire was overthrown by Cyrus the Great, who had united Persia under Zoroastrianism and become an instrument of the Divine wrath. Cyrus and his successors rule until the late 4th century BC, when they are conquered and overthrown by Alexander the Great. After his death in 323 BC, the Middle East comes under the rule of one of his generals, the founder of the Seleucid Dynasty that ruled until the Roman conquest and the invasion of the Parthians of Persia in the second century BC. From there, the Middle East was divided between the Romans (and later the Byzantines) and the Persian Parthians (and later the Sassanids). So it remained until the 7th century AD.

In 610 AD, an Arab merchant by the name of Muhammad received divine revelation. His message was not well-received in Mecca, home to the pagan shrine of the Ka'ba, and he was forced to flee with his followers to Medina in 622. He fought and defeated the Meccans in an eight-year war, and in 630, they surrendered and the Ka'ba was converted to an Islamic shrine, for it was originally built by angels, then rebuilt by Adam and later Abraham with the aid of Ishmael, the ancestor of the Arabs. Islam spread through the Arabian Peninsula, and by Muhammad's death in 632, most Arabs were Muslim.

Muhammad was succeed by the khalifas, or caliphs, who were both secular and religious rulers, though not prophets. The first four were chosen by general consensus. 'Ali ibn Abi Talib, the last of the four, spent his reign fighting enemies among the Muslim community, and eventually died to assassination. He was succeeded by his foe, Mu'awiya ibn Abi Sufyan, the founder of the Umayyad Dynasty, based from Damascus. They ruled from Damascus for nearly a century, expanding the Muslim world into North Africa, Spain, Central Asia and India. Arabic became the language of government, uniform coinage was made and scholars debated law and theology. However, the supporters of 'Ali continued to assert that his line should be caliphs, due to his bloodline as cousin and son-in-law of Muhammad. They gradually became the Shi'is, a number of whom would rebel against the Umayyads. Other opposition came from those who felt the Umayyads were impious and illegitimate. EVentually, they were displaced in 750 by a family descended from an uncle of the Prophet, the Abbasids.

The Abbasids built a capital in Iraq, Baghdad, which became the center of a Muslim golden age. It is in this time that the legendary Harun al-Rashid ruled, exchanging embassies with Charlemagne. Many of his subjects converted to Islam, though it would be three centuries before the Muslims were the majority of the subjects of the Abbasids. Abbasid power declined in the mid-800s due to Shi'i rebellions and financial problems. OVer the next century, the Muslim world fragmented, with provinces becoming in essence autonomous states. In 945, the caliphs came under the thumb of their deputies, which lasted into the mid-12th century. In 1037, the Seljuk Turks under Togrul Beg invaded, controlling the Middle East by the 1050s. The caliph was little more than a figurehead for them. By 1157, however, the caliphate had regained enough power to drive the Seljuk sultan from Baghdad, and an uneasy truce between the secular Sultan and the religious Caliph was instituted. The Seljuks' fall was accelerated by the Shansabani rebellion of 1149 and the Ghuzz uprising of 1151. Ala ad-Din Tekish of Khwarazm capitalized on the Seljuk collapse after the death of Sultan Ahmed Sanjar, and eventually defeated his successor Togrul III in 1194. His son, Ala ad-Din Mohammed, defeated the Shansabani in 1206 and is now the ruler of an empire stretching from the Jaxartes river to the Persian Gulf, naming himself shah, Parsi for 'king'. The caliph of Baghdad has yet to recognize his claim.

The current caliph, al-Nasir, is a vigorous ruler over a much-reduced realm, controlling little more than Iraq, though he is nominally recognized by most Sunni rulers. By the end of al-Nasir's reign, the eastern Muslim world will be attacked by Genghis Khan, who has occupied the area east of Jaxartes. By Genghis Khan's death in 1227, they will occupy as far as eastern Persia. In 1258, they will take Baghdad, where they will roll the caliph up in a carpet and trample him to death. They are stopped only in 1260, when a Mamluk army from Egypt stops their advance in Syria.

But you're not here about mundane history! You care about magic! Magi have long whispered about the dangers of the Arabian wizards, the so-called Order of Suleiman that seeks to ruin the Order of Hermes. Some believe such stories were started by Flambeau the Founder, who hated Muslims, or others who opposed the Iberian Muslim wizards joining House Ex Miscellanea. Anyway, the idea of an organized group of Arabian wizards is common among magi. It is also correct. The Order of Suleiman, however, is not what they fear it is. The Order of Suleiman is made of sahirs , mostly unGifted summoners who perform magic of vague similarity to the Hermetics. Their problems with the Hermetics are fairly recent, and for most of their history they've been an insular group with little interest in lands outside their own. It is only since the Crusades began that they have turned outwards.

Sahirs claim their power originates with King Solomon of Israel, who commanded hordes of jinn and spirits, could speak with animals and had magical devices of great power. It is said by sahirs that he learned these secrets from Al-Khidr, the Green Man, who taught Moses, traveled with Alexander the Great and gained immortality by drinking the Water of Life. The Art of Solomon was not lost to time, but practiced in secret. Over time it was corrupted, and some say the Infernal version of this power was spread by the angels Harut and Marut as a test of mankind's faith. Other traditions developed to command the elements, animals and nature, such as the Zoroastrian magic of the priests. And with the rise of Islam, magic was regained - some say that Al-Khidr taught the Art of Solomon to the caliph Ali ibn Abi Talib, who certainly was friendly to magicians.

Under the Umayyads, a trio of summoners swore loyalty to the caliphate, gaining the official title of 'wazir', which at the time meant 'bearer of magic in service to the caliph.' At first, they were no more trusted than most, possibly less. However, as the Umayyads expanded, they encountered other magicians of great power, and the wazirs became quite valuable, for their spirits were able to resist magic. Because the foreign wizards served the armies of the enemy, it became essential for the wazirs to train others. Soon, three wazirs became thirty. Thirty became a hundred or more. Their powers developed, learning to summon more than ghosts, but also jinn. With their help, the Umayyads defeated the foreign wizards and the enemy armies, conquering an immense empire. It is likely these wazir who spawned the early legends of the Order of Suleiman.

However, the callousness of the wazirs toward their jinn was their downfall. Many jinn are Muslim, and to enslave them is against the Qur'an. This turned the supernatural realms against them, and by 720 AD, they were too busy defending against attacks from spirits to do anything else, and this was one of the leading factors in halting the Umayyad advance. The caliphs, of course, were furious, but did not blame the wazirs, but the people. This led to rebellions - and worse, the spirits did not attack commoners, but the wazirs, forcing the caliphate to defend them. In 746, it is said that a hundred jinn or more laid siege to Damascus demanding the two wazirs within, and halting a defense against Abbasid armies. After many such actions, the population of summoners was drastically reduced, and the techniques of summoning died out on all but the fringes of the empire.

The Umayyads broke apart and the Abbasids took over. One of their greatest was Harun al-Rashid. His mother, Al-Khayzuran, was Yemeni and skilled in the magic of enchanting music and stories. At her behest, the caliph agreed to assemble a council of wizards to advise on mystical matters, though he preferred thinkers to magical warriors. The head of this council was his grand vizier, Yahya ibn Khalid, or Yahya the Barmakid, an unGifted scholar of elixirs and potions and the former tutor of the caliph. He wrote to the finest minds, inviting them to this "Solomonic" council. Five great men joined Yahya and Al-Khayzuran.

First was Jabir ibn Hayyan, a summoner, alchemist and scholar possessed of a remarkably gentle Gift. He was a master of the art of Sihr, which he learned from one of the few surviving Umayyad summoners. He was responsible for discovering how to incorporate the council's magic into a greater whole. Second was Muhammad al-Fazari, a philosopher and astrologer as well as author of many magical texts. His father Ibrahim is said to have transformed himself into a spirit to watch over his son, and it was al-Fazari who was first shown (by his father) how to initiate himself and other unGifted sahirs into magic. Third was the Nestorian Christian and Persian doctor Bakhtyshu, whose father had served the last caliph. He was the only non-Muslim on the council, and was invited only provisionally, but later proved his worth by exorcising a potent demon. He is said to have known the True Names of many spirits. Fourth was Al-Zill Habib, the Beloved Shadow, a popular highwayman who led revolts against the Umayyads and had many followers, even jinn and yatus. He is said to have been related to Al-Khayzuran, but he was always cloaked and hid his face, even when alone. Last was Al-Hajjaj, or Al-Majnun, the Madman. He was a poet and mathematician who had strange visions and claimed to have been taught by Al-Khidr, as well as having gone to the Magic Realm to drink the Water of Life. He never aged past 25, and none knew when he was born.

Together, the council made a common language of magic, inventing the five Solomonic Arts, at which each excelled in one area. Al-Khayzuran died mysteriously in 789, and soon after, Yahya retired and left his Gifted son Ja'far to be grand vizier and head of the council. Harun moved his palace, and soon Ja'far was his only contact with the wizards. As Harun's power increased, he became mistrustful of Ja'far, and sought out other advisors, including, it is said, a Hermetic magus named Christopher Coronus from the court of Charlemagne, a Sufi holy man named Fozail-e Iyaz and an eastern miracle worker named Dawud al-Kharita. Under their influence, Harun began to resent the power of the Barmakids and ceased to consult with Ja'far in private.

Rumor had it that Ja'far was a wicked and evil sorcerer who craved the caliph's throne, as his Gift made others naturally hate him. He begged Harun's sister, whom he loved, to speak to Harun on his behalf, but when she did, Dawud accused Ja'far of enchanting her, and as punishment Ja'far was executed and the rest of his family imprisoned or killed. Of course, other stories say all the rumors were true, and that Ja'far was too ambitious and had indeed enchanted Harun's sister. In any case, the five remaining Council members became afraid and unsure, worrying that their alliance would die with them. They decided to travel in secret to where Yahya was imprisoned, to get his advice. He advised them to form their own organization, independent of the caliphate, for they were too vulnerable to politics serving Harun directly.

They named this new alliance the Suhhar Sulayman, the Summoners of Solomon, and developed a plan for it to prosper. They begged Harun for permission to form this order, and once convinced they were not plotting against him, he allowed it, so long as the sahirs who belonged continued to serve him as loyal subjects. Several councillors retained court positions, and this may be why the Suhhar continues to use 'vizier' and 'grand vizier' as titles. In the years that followed, the Suhhar flourished, welcoming many to the fold. The house in Baghdad where they were formed became a grand academy, the Bayt al-Hikma, and a golden age of magic was born. Even when the caliphate fractured, they remained strong, with schools all over the Middle East and an annual gathering of representatives.

The Iberian sahirs stopped coming in 912, and by 919 the Baghdad sahirs stopped trying to get them to come. The Iberians met on their own until 925, when they joined the Order of Hermes. There has been no real contact with them since. In the mid-900s, the Fatimids drove many sahirs out of North Africa and Egypt with the aid of Berber sorcerers whom the sahirs' spirits could not defeat. This greatly reduced the Suhhar's lands to just Egypt, Arabia and Persia. They remained potent, but introspective, advancing to the modern tradition that they are now. However, this time of peace was interrupted when the sahir Hassan-i Sabbah murdered the grand vizier. He was an assassin of the Nizari Isma'ili sect, and he fled to their Persian stronghold in the mountains, where he taught others the secrets of Solomonic magic, creating a rival Nizari organization of sahirs that has continued to harass the Suhhar.

There was occasional outside contact - the Suhhar had long been aware that Hermetics existed, after all, and they know of the Zoroastrian priesthood of Persia, but relations were always strained. The Berber wizards did not encroach further after driving the sahirs from North Africa, so no contact there. By the end of the 11th century, they had become pure introverts. That changed with the Crusades. When the Europeans sieged Antioch and Jerusalem, the sahirs were enraged. A few tried to fight at Tyre, but most of the Suhhar was not prepared at all. They overreacted, trying to seize control of the supernatural and spying on the European wizards. They were shocked to discover that most were immune to Solomonic magic, just as spirits, caliphs and holy men were. Others attacked and learned this firsthand, quickly being defeated and often killed.

The sahirs decided that, clearly, the invaders had the Divine on their side, and Jerusalem was rightfully theirs. However, one of leaders of the five Solomonic families, the Asala al-Sakhr, declared that the invaders were instead aided by Infernal power, and led a strong anti-crusader movement. The Suhhar remained publically uninvolved but many sahirs fought the Crusaders or taught soldiers the Solomonic arts. The Suhhar relaxed restrictions on fair treatment of non-Muslim spirits, and agreed that the Order of Hermes crusading magi were enemies of Islam, authorizing retaliation. However, after the First Crusade, they worried about direct confrontation and instead taught magic to key leaders, helping to recapture Edessa and ending the Second Crusade.

There is an old tradition among the Suhhar of appearing as a nameless wise man and offering to teach magic, which is seen as an honorable way to involve the sahirs in politics without committing te Suhhar itself. When Nur ad-Din and Saladin rose to prominence, they were "sent a guide", as the tradition is called, though Nur ad-Din revealed that he already knew magic and had no desire to join the Suhhar, for Al-Khidr himself had taught him. Saladin just refused the guide without explanation, and the sahirs had to aid him without his consent. In 1220, the Suhhar Sulayman is still fighting the Crusaders, including Hermetics who help them. They still gather yearly in Baghdad, but the conflict is rarely discussed. Plans are in motion for an attack on the Christian forces in the Levant, a counter-crusade of sorts, and they have been gathering intelligence on the Order of Hermes so they may, hopefully, strike them at their weakest point and drive them from Muslim lands. To this end, the sahirs have made it clear that Hermetics are welcome in their lands, where they can be watched carefully without their knowledge and more quickly found when the time comes to attack. The Suhhar now studies their foes in earnest, for they are still at war - and they will not lose.

Next time: Life among the Suhhar.

The Families

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Re: Most important books, I'd say the Houses of Hermes books to get a clear idea of what each House is really about and like, and The Mysteries Revised, since mystery cults are a big part of the game - they're the only way to get Virtues permanently, really, after character generation.

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Cradle and Crescent

The Ashab al-Sakhr , the Followers of the Stone, are the fist of the five Families. They specialize in Solomonic Alchemy, and descend from the tradition of Jabir ibn Hayyan, the only Gifted member of the First Council. They are most commonly found in Damascus, and are the center of the counter-Crusade that the Suhhar now prepares for. They are typically very unfriendly to Europeans, and often especially pious Muslims. Very, very few non-Muslims belong to this Family. They are seen as noble, in a sense, and value their personal honor quite highly. Many prefer swords to magic for battle, or swords enhanced by magic.

The Ashab al-Najm , the Followers of the Star, are the masters of Solomonic Astrology. Many descend from a small group of Zoroastrians who studied under Al-Khwarizmi, the student of Al-Fazari. They established a school in Nasibin and many places in Persia. They are the most widespread Family, and the ones that most look like arcane masters, dressing as wizards or, at least, scholars. They believe it is important to encourage the grand reputation of magic, even when using it to serve, lest others cease to value it.

The Ashab al-Yad , the Followers of the Hand, are specialists in Solomonic Physic. The first were all members of the Bakhtyshu family of Gundeshapur, Persia. They founded the House of Healing there, and most were Nestorian Christians. Muslims, Jews and pagans have also joined this Family, and their reputation among the Suhhar has always been somewhat poor due to their easy acceptance of outsiders. There are more non-Muslims among the Ashab al-Yad than any other Family. They are seen as somewhat sinister, able to heal but also to harm, so no one is ever quite sure how they will respond.

The Ashab al-Qalb , the Followers of the Heart, descend in theory from Al-Zill Habib, but they generally regard Al-Khayzuran as their spiritual founder, for so little is known of Al-Zill. They have remained in Baghdad, focusing on Solomonic Storytelling, and it is most often that the Suhhar's Grand Vizier is one of the al-Qalb. They are generally very political, and spend much time dealing with supernatural beings, even more than other sahir. They only rarely have the Gift, and there are more women in the Ashab al-Qalb than in any other House.

The Ashab al-Nahr , the Followers of the River, specialize in Solomonic Travel. Early sahirs often ignored its power, for few understood the power of the supernatural realms. Two generations after Al-Hajjaj, however, a man named Ibn Wahshiyya deciphered many secrets of those realms from the writings of the ancient Egyptians, singlehandedly revitalizing the Art and the Family. They are based out of Cairo, and are known for eccentricity. Both Al-Hajjaj and Ibn Wahshiyya were famous for their passion and eventual madness, after all.

The Ashab al-Halqa , the Followers of the Circle, have no specialty, generally focus more on pure summoning than a Solomonic Art. They are not a true Family; rather, the Iberian sahirs often called themselves the Ashab al-Halqa, in reference to the outer circle of the pentacle that forms the Seal of Solomon. The term is still used to define those sahirs who are aligned with no Family. Most Gifted or self-taught sahirs are unaligned, preferring to remain apart.

The Suhhar Sulayman's laws are fairly simple, in theory. To join, you must be able to summon a spirit. That is the only criteria. Because of Al-Khayzuran and Bakhtyshu, no restrictions were placed on women or non-Muslims joining. Every sahir must donate one quarter of their wealth to the Suhhar, which will be used to spread knowledge in their communities. They also laid down the law for dealing with spirits: no thinking, feeling spirit could be enslaved or held captive by a sahir who remained free, and those who did that would be considered no longer part of the Suhhar. You must bargain with your spirits. Those were the whole of the laws they felt they needed; anything else could be handled by the sharia, to which all were clearly subject.

In 1220, there are perhaps 5000 sahirs living in the Middle East, primarily in Iraq and Jazira. A small community might have five or six sahirs, but most large cities have upwards of 50. In Syria or Egypt, there are maybe another 2-3000 sahirs who also belong to the Suhhar. Of this total, about 2/3 of them are men, 3/4 of them are Muslim and only around 500 have the Gift. In total, sahirs outnumber the Order of Hermes around five to one.

The Suhhar is run by the Majlis al-Sulayman, the Solomonic Council. It meets once a year, and every community of three or more sahirs chooses one member to represent it as vizier at the Majlis, who will go to Baghdad to speak for them. Some communities send several viziers - legend has it that Cairo once sent one vizier for every three sahirs in the city. The viziers elect one of their number to be grand vizier, who addresses all issues brought forwar. The worst sentence the grand vizier may pass is expulsion from the Suhhar, and the grand vizier has absolute authority to do that at any point in the next year, though they're expected to follow precedent and advice. Most issues that come up in the year will be deferred to the next Majlis.

Anyway, let's talk characters. Sahir can learn to invoke the Names of Power , essentially casting a spell that increases the power of a specific kind of spell cast immediately after. It's quite handy! Most sahir summon spirits via the art of Sihr, but it's not required - Goetic, Theurgical or Elemental summoning are all viable methods, as is Faerie summoning. A Gifted sahir is always considered to be equivalent to a magus-slot character, while an unGifted sahir is either a Mythic Companion or a normal Companion.

Solomonic spells, known as naranjs, come in two flavors: the summoning spell, which calls a specific spirit and summons it to your location without any of the hard work and effort normally required by Sihr (though also somewhat harder to do, and you need a new spell for each spirit you feel like calling), and the formulaic or ritual spell. These spells cannot be cast alone - a sahir must bind a spirit, using them as a medium through which to cast the magic. They may boost the power of a spell by spending 15 minutes or so exercising a mundane ability related to it - for example, in the case of Solomonic Physic, using medical skills. Doing so can also make the magic too subtle for anyone to notice. Ritual spells are merely extremely potent formulaic spells, requiring the expenditure of vis and maintained by the spirit with concentration. Normal formulaic spells cast by sahir are done in an instant - only ritual spells have lasting duration, and end when the spirit ceases to concentrate on them.

Sahir are notable in having capabilities that Hermetics do not - most notably, they can forcibly extract vis from supernatural beings or enchanted objects. The process is extremely painful for supernatural beings, though. Sahir may also bind a spirit into an inanimate object, either superficially tying them to an object in order to power a magical effect for as long as the spirit cares to maintain it, or literally binding and enslaving the spirit into the object to make a sustained, repeatedly-usable magic item. While bound in that way, a spirit cannot be summoned, and the Suhhar has made it illegal to do this to intelligent spirits, though there are plenty of unintelligent ones to use.

Sahir do not take Familiars; rather, they take a khadim, which means 'servant' but has no connotations of submission. The khadim bond empowers spells cast through the spirit that becomes khadim. You may have more than one khadim, but no spirit can be khadim to more than one sahir. Also, sahir do not need warding spells - they can just create wards against any spirit they can summon by drawing mystic circles and empowering them directly. Very handy. Lastly, sahir do not use the Longevity Rituals that Hermetics do. They create Al-Iksir, the Elixir of Life. Al-Iksir was brought to the Suhhar by Al-Hajjaj, who reportedly learned it from Al-Khidr. You summon a spirit into a liquid concoted from vis and then drink it, taking the properties of the spirit into yourself. This frees the spirit and purifies you. it can remove the effects of age, make you look younger or make you actually younger , reversing aging for real. Of course, it also warps you, can remove your memories and can cause eccentricity and madness or other flaws, but that's okay, it's immortality in a bottle.

There's many reasons that a Hermetic might want to study the sahirs. They could learn Hermetic True Names , finding a way to incorporate an Arcane Connection directly into a spell, which can be taught to others without having to create new Arcane Connections. They could learn the Scientates Suleimanis , learning to duplicate the way sahirs have found to do magic that replicates natural effects of the sciences, allowing them to break the Limit of Energy. They could learn Hermetic Realm Integration , granting a way to give Virtues without need for a mystery cult in a method similar to the Solomonic initiation - including the ability to do Hermatic magic without the Gift.

Sahirs might want to study the Hermetics, too. They might unlock the power of Solomonic Devices , the ability to create enchanted items that do not require a spirit to maintain the magic, allowing for much easier creation of enchanted items. They might learn Spontaneous Solomonic Magic , allowing the casting of spells not memorized in advance in the same way that Hermetic magi can. Lastly and most potently, they might learn Independent Solomonic Magic , allowing them to cast spells without aid of a spirit by using their own power directly.

Next time: Solomonic Magic.

Solomonic Arts

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Cradle and Crescent

Sihr is, strictly speaking, not one of the Solomonic Arts. However, it is so common that the unaligned sahirs of the Ashab al-Halqa consider it their specialty. Sihr is said to derive from the Art of Solomon, and its primary use is in detecting jinn and other spirits and discerning their power, then summoning them. The sahir then bargains with the jinn for service, generally in payment of vis.

Solomonic Alchemy is the art of effecting non-living matter, either simple and elemental or complex and mixed. You or your spirit must touch the target, and simple matter is easier. The more you change what you touch, the harder it is. You can enhance or diminish qualities, purify matter, transform it into other matter, change its size, animate matter or even alter the properties of the matter, though unnatural change requires ritual magic. Solomonic Alchemy draws on knowledge of Philosophiae and science, and it makes the body resistant to damage and age, and also strengthens the body for carrying things.

Solomonic Astrology is the art of gaining information via signs and portents, and it works on anyone you can see or have an Arcane Connection to. The more detail you want, the harder it is. It can give premonitions, perceive qualities of people or things, sense danger, create Arcane Connections or scry on people. It draws on the Artes Liberales and knowledge of astronomy, and it enhances alertness and intuition as well as experimental results in the lab.

Solomonic Physic requires you or your spirit to touch the target, and works on both animals and humans. The greater an effect you want, the harder it is. It may bless or curse healing and recovery from disease, cause wounds, strengthen or weaken personality traits, weaken the body and mind, strengthen or weaken poison, cure diseases, restore fatigue, cause diseases, transform the personality, heal wounds and resolve or cause crises of age. It draws on knowledge of Medicine, naturally. It speeds healing and slows aging, and also makes you stealthier, harder to notice and dodgier (if you don't attack).

Solomonic Storytelling targets anyone who can hear your voice that you can sense, and it creates illusions. The harder they are to see through, the harder they are to cast. It can change emotions, convince people to do things, convey messages, alter memories, change images or cause illusions. It draws on your knowledge of local lore to tell appropriate stories. Further, it makes you better at social situations, better at leading people and spirits and resistant to emotional manipulation.

Solomonic Travel manipulates distance, magic power and the supernatural realms. It opens passages via magic circles or marks, and the sooner you want the magic to show up, the harder it is. It can warp people, restore magical might, open portals to regiones and magical realms, close portals, age people, sense the invisible, scry on arcane connections, scry on dreams, transform you into a spirit or open portals between locations. It draws on knowledge of the supernatural realms, and it helps you navigate such realms and deal with the effects of warping, as well as avoiding fatigue and assisting in control of magical power.

But you need a jinn. Islamic teaching holds that there are three kinds of intelligent being: the angels or mala'ika, made from light. The humans, al-Ins, made from clay. And the jinn, made from smokeless fire. Jinn are an important part of Islamic folklore. Some legends tell of impious humans turned to jinn after their deaths. Jinn may come from the Magic Realm, composed of pure magic, the Faerie Realm, composed of Glamour or the Infernal Realm, composed of rarefied power. Some jinn, particularly Magical jinn, are elemental in nature. Most can take physical form, and many are shapeshifters. They divide themselves into tribes based roughly on what realm they are from and how they act. The Jann, for example, are all Muslims who pass for merchants, nomads or shepherds and hail from the Faerie realm. The Shaitan are a mix of dark Faerie and Infernal jinn, some of which are true demons. The Ghul are dark Faerie or Infernal jinn who feast on carrion and human flesh. The Marid are elemental and weather-based Magical jinn.

All jinn, no matter what realm, share a few traits. They have True Names, even the weak ones. They hail only from lands where Muslims live. All know of Islam. Some accept it (Faerie jinn, always), reject it (dark Faerie jinn), ignore it (Magic jinn) or oppose it (Infernal jinn). They universally speak and understand classical Arabic, though rare ancient jinn may prefer Aramaic, Hebrew or other ancient Semitic tongues. All understand Islamic theology to some extent. All have some power to hide, either by invisibility, immateriality, illusion or shapeshifting.

Most jinn speak all the tongues of man. They frequently have second sight and are frequently bound to never break a contract unless the other side does so first. Animals can usually sense their nature. All jinn possess the power to become corporeal by one means or another, and some are locked in physical forms. All jinn can take on at least one other form, either incorporeal or via shapeshifting. Jinn all live long times, but some do age, albeit slowly. All jinn claim a common origin in Jinnistan, and some scholars believe this means that all jinn were originally Magical but shifted realms somehow.

Those jinn who claim either to have accepted or rejected Islam are Faerie jinn, often called pious and impious jinn. They are the ones most people meet. They mimic human behavior, and generally their religious positions are a sham meant to follow the stories of humans, as all faeries are guided by story. They live in inhospitable areas near human settlements, and tend to take part in stories about the nature of adulthood. Most have powers of illusion, flight, shapeshifting or travel, and must are vulnerable to the Bismillah invocation or the call of the mua'addhin. Before the rise of Islam, Jinn claiming to follow Jewish or Christian beliefs were more common, but they are very rare these days. Some jinn have been imprisoned since the time of Solomon, and will generally either declare their religion as Jewish or Christian...or will claim to somehow have converted to Islam during captivity.

Jinn that show little interest in mankind are Magical jinn, and are called pagan jinn. They are elemental spirits, tied to landscape features most of the time. They can generally only leave their locus by tying themselves to a person or object. Some claim to be pre-Islamic deities, but they do not depend on worship for power. They are strongly tied to the elements and are the most commonly summoned jinn by sahirs, since they are often easy to identify. Unlike Faerie and Infernal jinn, some of them are not bothered by the Bismillah invocation, though many of the weaker ones are warded off by it.

Corrupt jinn are the Infernal ones, both demons and merely tainted jinn. They do not merely reject Islam but actively oppose it. All Infernal jinn are burned by the touch of iron and the Bismillah invocation. Beyond that, they largely resemble demons in most ways. It can often be very hard to tell the difference between a dark Faerie jinn playing through a story of savagery and a corrupt jinn.

Sahir may study jinn to learn more of magic, as can Hermetic magi, though typically you will need to make a deal to get the jinn to sit still long enough for it to be worth doing. Jinn, like most supernatural beings, can have children with humans, and their children tend to bear a few traces of their parentage but lack anywhere near the raw power of the jinn. They are faerie-blooded or demon-blooded just like any other of their sort.

Next time: Zoroastrianism.


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Cradle and Crescent

Mazdeanism/Zoroastrianism, basically, is a monotheistic faith that predates Christianity, based on the teachings of the prophet Zoroaster, AKA Zarathustra. He was six hundred years or so before Christ, was a virgin birth and was raised as a Persian priest. He was visited by God, called Ohrmazd, and brought forth the holy hymns called Gathas. He spent a decade preaching through Persia, and even converted the Emperor Vishtaspa after performing miracles for him. He was murdered in the city of Balkh by Turanian warriors. His disciple Osthanes led the religion to the main faith of Persia, and the priests, called mobeds, held great secrets of power. Under the Achaemenians and Parthians, they expanded and taught many great Hellenic thinkers. However, when Alexander the Great invaded, he plundered and destroyed their fire temples, slaughtering priests and burning scriptures. The following Seleucid period was one of despair, as the Mazdeans were persecuted and their temples desecrated.

They returned to strength under the Sasanids, coming into conflict with the Roman empire and the Mercurian priesthood. During this period, there was great conflict and magical war with the Mercurians, as the mobeds called down angels and spirits to aid them in battle in Syria and Palestine, as well as using their visions of the future to guide their generals. Despite this, it was a mere sideline to the true war on Ahriman, the Devil. However, the Zoroastrians fell from power under Islamic rule. Many Mazdeans converted to Islam after the Sasanid Empire was defeated. While the Muslims viewed Zoroastrian scripture as in the same category as the Christian Bible or Jewish Torah, there have been laws made to enforce the inferiority of the Mazdean faith under Muslim control, and Zoroastrians in particular are discriminated against, called gabars ('infidels') and accused worshipping fire and the devil.

Most Zoroastrians who have not converted have fled to remote locations in Iran or further east. Despite this, the locals still speak Parsi over Arabic, and Persian culture remains distinct from Arabic culture. They retain their memories of ancient glory, including the history of the Mazdeans. For most of that history, the church and government have been the same - it was not until the Sasanids that a formal and explicit Mazdean Church was formed under rule by the high priests rather than the king. The mobeds suppressed all other, 'false' faiths such as Christianity, Maniacheanism and Judaism, as well as more exotic, Eastern beliefs. This continued until the Muslim conquest. The Mazdean Church is gone now, though the priesthood has survived. It is hereditary - you are born to be a mobed, not recruited. The group is currently rather collegiate, with no leader now to resolve disputes. However, given the dispersal of the Mazdeans, there really aren't many disputes.

Mazdeans believe in Ohrmazd, the Wise Lord or Ahura Mazda, who posses the Destructive Spirit, Ahriman or Angra Mainyu. Ohrmazd is the Creator, from which all good flows. Ahriman is the embodiment of evil. Zoroaster believed in a very high standard of morality, with the collective action of the faithful swinging the balance of power towards good or evil. The material universe is God's good creation, and all unpleasant parts of it are caused by Ahriman. Maintaining purity is vital, but the world is still to be enjoyed; Zoroastrianism is not an ascetic faith by any definition.

There are many divine beings in the Zoroastrian hierarchy, such as the seven Ameshaspand, or Holy Immortals, who each embody an aspect of Ohrmazd and care for part of the world. They are, in Ars Magica, extremely potent angels who act only under God's direction but are not literally of the same nature as God. Below them are the yazdan, or Adorable Ones, lesser angels such as Marduk or Mithras. There are 40 named yazdan, and they personify ideas or natural phenomena, granting blessings and answering sacrifices. Many are true angels, but some are merely Divinely-aligned spirits. Yazdan may be invoked in the same way Christians invoke saints, but you must be ritually pure to do so. Beneath them are the frohar, the perfect divine spirits of all created things. Humans have them as guardian angels, but everything has a frohar, and they ensure the world keeps working.

Mazdeans say that those who are judged to lead good lives enter Heaven, those whose lives are equally good and evil are sent to Hamestagna ('Limbo') and experience mild discomfort but not torture, and those who are evil suffer torments under Ahriman. The dead will rise with the coming of the true World Savior, the Saoshyant. The wicked will suffer three days in hell, the pure will have three days in heaven, and after three days, all will be purified in molten metal and live in Ohrmazd's kingdom of eternal bliss.

Fire is central to Zoroastrian faith, a symbol of truth, Divine presence and purity. All sacred fires must burn constantly - extinguishing or polluting one is a grave sin. Only clean, dry wood may be used, preferably an aromatic wood. The Zoroastrian agiari, or fire temple, is meant to guard the fire, which is tended by priests. The devout visit daily, while less pious Zoroastrians visit on sacred days. There are only a few full-time temples left these days, however, and many Zoroastrians make do with constantly-burning oil lamps at home. These are called atesh dadgah, fire of the appointed place, which can only be used for cooking if the cookpots are only 2/3 full and do not spill over and pollute the fire. Above that are the royal fires, the atesh adaran ('fire of fires') which is made from four ceremonially lit fires and is also called atesh Varahran, or fire of the guardian Verahran. Holiest is the atesh Behram, which requires 16 fires and considerable ceremony to light. Any of these fires increases Dominion aura in the area while lit.

Ahriman, the Zoroastrian devil, is the personification of lies and evil, embodying all negative things. He pollutes and corrupts, creating evil things for all good things Ohrmazd made. He chose evil, was not made that way. Under him are the Daevas, potent demons made in mockery of the Ameshaspand. They are corruptors, both physical and spiritual, and they created the negative emotions of hate and envy. Beneath them are 45 named demons who oppose the yazdan.

Mazdean heresies do exist, in theory, but none have survived to 1225. They once included the Zurvanites, who claimed Ohrmazd had a father, Zurvan ('Time'), and that free will did not exist. There were also the ascetic Mazdakites who practiced poverty. Much like Christianity, Mazdean coming of age rituals grant Faith points and render names unusable as True Names for magical purposes, much as baptism does, while other rituals like marriage do the same. Like all other Divine religions, a soul laid to rest in the proper sacred manner is beyond the reach of magic.

Now, character options! Mazdean magic utilizes the dead language Avestan, in which Mazdean holy texts are written. Those who descend from the original priestly caste of Persia, the Magian tribe, resist aging and have a natural affinity for supernatural powers. Any Mazdean can learn the Knowledge of True NAmes , though it is of no use to those without supernatural powers. This knowledge gives use of several demonic, magical or faerie True Names - or even Divine ones.

The Mobeds are a form of miracle worker, much as other holy traditions are. They have long scorned other magic-users, and are now scorned by the Suhhar in turn. Their ancient lore is much admired by both the Suhhar and the Hermetics, but neither really believes the mobed tradition still lives. They favor the powers of Invocation, Adjuration, Wonders and the sensing of holy and unholy power. Mobeds also often practice Mythic Alchemy and Mythic Herbalism, as well as Dream Interpretation similar to the Jews. Further, they have access to several Mystery Cult virtues which mobeds can be initiated into.

The Blessings of the Ameshaspand grant bonuses to holy magic related to specific areas, generally covered by one or two Hermetic Forms. They may learn Mazdean Alchemy , by which they can derive vis from a Divine aura. They can learn Mazdean Astrology , allowing them to define spells which last minutes, hours, days or by astrological sign, rather than relying on the sun or seasons. They may learn the Righteousness of the Wise , enchanting fires, holy ground or communities. They may learn to create Saoshyant's Elixir , a grand and arduous ritual that grants immunity to age and death by any means in exchange for Divine warping.

Lastly, a mobed may unlock the Gifts of Gayomart , granting additional power to their True Faith. At True Faith 1, they get Asha, Truth . They cannot be lied to or purposefully deceived, save by those who have strong Magic Resistance. Even demons cannot lie to them. At True Faith 4, they get Vohu Manah, Good Mind , and gain a Commanding Aura similar to a ruler or spiritual leader. At True Faith 6, they get Hauvatat, Wholeness , immunizing them to disease and decay as well as slowing aging and resisting damage. Further, their body may heal from any scar or wound, even lost limbs, given enough time. At True Faith 8, they get Ameratat, Immortality , and will never die of old age as long as they maintain their faith, though they may still die of wounds.

Next time: Things to do in Mythic Arabia.

The Middle East

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Cradle and Crescent

On to highlights of the area! (I'm skimming a lot here.) The Bedouin tribes are particularly strong in the magical ways. Many Bedouin sahirs do quite well for themselves by hunting down vis and trading it to urban sahirs for money or books. Almost all Bedouins follow the code of muru'a , a pre-Islamic honor code relying on hospitality, courage and honor as well as forgiveness, loyalty and self-sacrifice. Very rarely, the Bedouins harbor pagans who still do not practice Islam. The Bedouins have deep ties to the jinn, and many of their tribes are led by jinn-blooded elders. Bedouins are very loyal to their clan and family, and a shockingly large number of them have supernatural powers related to memory, animals, travel, cursing or the desert. Bedouin sahirs are more often Gifted than urban ones. All tribes have at least one sahir, often supported by female hedge magicians known as hakima, 'wise women', or kahina, 'soothsayers' or male shai'ir, poets. The hakima and kahina resemble folk witches, and we'll talk poetry in a bit.

The Middle East as a whole is just completely packed with ghosts, jinn and so on. They're everywhere. Very handy if you want to find them, at least. On the north edge of Mecca, there is a cemetary where the Prophet's family is buried. Near it is a mosque called the Mosque of the Jinn, for it iis primarily in use by Muslim jinn. Humans may attend the mosque as well, and the respectful are always welcome - sometimes a bit overenthusiastically. The mosque possesses a potent Faerie aura.

We get a sidebar on Arab poetry - it's very important, especially to Bedouins. A poet is a soothsayer, a historian and more. Poetry battles are even used to resolve conflicts. (Yeah, Bedouins have been doing rap battle for millenia .) Bedouin poets (and, rarely, other poets) occasionally possess supernatural powers related to their poetry, either tied to memory or hypnosis. It is even said that the jinn hold poetry contests for the Bedouin, granting them supernatural might if they win. Magi and sahirs may well seek to compete, depending on what this year's prize is.

Let's see...southern Arabia and Yemen are home to the syrenii or iaculii, winged serpents. They are highly venomous, but not actually innately magical - they're just flying snakes. They are aggressive and hard to tame without magic, and some say the strongest of them possess magical powers. But that's true of most animal species, really. On to Mesopotamia! In some ancient cities you may find Faerie guards, the aladlammu and apsasu, who are fierce foes of demons and disease. They make powerful allies for a community as a result. The aladlammu appear as bulls with wings and a bearded human face, while the apsasu have a female face. Shedu and lamassu are the same, but with winged human bodies instead of bull bodies. Honestly, Mesopotamia is full of monsters and faerie gods who seek human interaction simply because nearly no one worships them any more . They're desperate. Some want worship, others just want to talk to people again.

Baghdad is notable for being two cities - the human Baghdad, and the faerie Golden Baghdad, which can be accessed via many hidden paths. The tales of the Arabian Nights are endlessly re-enacted in Golden Baghdad, and it's entirely possible to stray into those stories without realizing you even crossed a Faerie threshold. In fact, straying into Golden Baghdad by accident is so common that it's considered an acceptable excuse for being absent among the people of Baghdad, most of whom have been there at least once.

The town of Arzanjan is noted for its remarkable brasswork. I bring thus up only because their brass-smiths are literally magical . Arzanjani brass-smiths are initiated by their guild into a magical mystery that grants them the power to make brass soft and flexible, so it may be reshaped without nearly as much effort as usual. This is the secret of the Arzanjani skill with brass. Handy, I suppose.

Moving on to Persia! Persia is home to many supernatural beings, from the faerie maidens called peris, who are known for entrapping men, to the wizards known as yatus, faerie summoners who primarily act as sahir, but some reject Solomonic magic and use the faerie Ars Fabulosa, which we will learn about eventually in Realms of Power: Faerie. The yatus are often pagans, which can make things difficult with other sahirs. The Mobeds have already been discussed, of course, and will get to the Nizari. Instead, let's talk about Zahhak! In ancient times, Zahhak was the demonic ruler of all Persia, the slayer of the ancient hero Jamshid. He ruled for a thousand years until ended by the hero Feridun. However, sometimes a Zahhak reappears and most be defeated - though never as potent as the original.

What's the secret? Zahhak is not a demon. Rather, Zahhak is what happens to those possessed by the demon Azi Dahak, who grants his power and turns them to evil. It usually takes Azi Dahak some time to build up the power needed to possess a new person after his last host is killed, though. The last Zahhak was 14 years ago, the Shansabani Sultan Mohammad al-Ghuri. However, some say that Genghis Khan is or is advised by a Zahhak. This may or may not be true. The first Zahhak, as a note, isn't dead. He is bound beneath Mount Damavand, kept alive by the divine bindings placed on him by Feridun. Seeking him out might help in finding the ways to defeat a Zahhak. You can tell a Zahhak by the black snake that grows from each shoulder. The snakes crave human brains, and drive their host to get them for them.

In the steppes of northern Persia is a race of men known as the Ghuzz. They descend from the Biblical giants Gog and Magog, and they are infamous for both being amazing fighters and completely uncontrollable. All Ghuzz are larger than normal men, and the most potent are those with strong giant blood, larger still and often immune to any form of mental manipulation - magic or non-magic. Ghuzz leaders often possess the supernatural power to control lesser men, forging even unorganized groups into the equivalent of drilled soldiers. However, the most potent Ghuzz also tend to hate authority and orders, so they don't usually organize into large groups. They breed and ride huge horses, and those horses of the largest Ghuzz rival small elephants.

The town of Kajaran is home to magical worms, which grant good luck to those that own them. The worms must be fed mulberry leaves, any only by one person, or they will die. As time goes on, they give more and more luck, wealth and power. However, if the worm is allowed to live four years, the user becomes obsessed with feeding it, and after the fifthy year becomes terrified of it. No one in Kajaran allows a worm to live more than five years for fear of becoming a horrible, luck-powered tyrant once the worm becomes a dragon. (It happened once. It wasn't pretty and it involved death by boiling lead.)

The town of Isfahan is famous for its carpets - and for good reason. Many of the carpet-makers are able to weave magical carpets. Most famous are the men known as Dadvand and Yarankush. Dadvand is a rich man who produces flying carpets; his family has been making them since the time of the Sasanids, and the Suhhar Sulayman loves to buy these magical flying carpets despite the exceptional expense. Dadvand also produces magical rugs of other sorts, such as a rug that speeds healing. Yarankush, on the other hand, makes protective rugs. His specialty is rugs that make a loud noise when stepped on by any but the owner, a great boon for those who fear murder. However, Yarankush is secretly a member of the Nizari assassins, and he hides a warning in the design so that Nizari know not to step on it. Since advertising ownership of a Yarankush rug defeats the purpose of having one, this hasn't slowed down sales.

Let's see...at the peak of Mount Damavand lives an immense bird, the Simurgh. She is exceptionally powerful and seen as a bringer of fertility. Which she is - fields she flies over are extremely fertile. She is extremely wise on many subjects, and has the power to control the winds. She is so large that only magical weapons can harm her, too. However, she is known to grant the worthy one of her breast-feathers, which contain potent vis and may be burned in a fire to summon the Simurgh in times of need. The Simurgh is large enough to lift an elephant, has the head of a dog and the claws of a lion. She has a peacock's tail.

Next time: The Nizari and the Silk Road.

Middle Eastern Politics

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Cradle and Crescent

The Nizari Isma'ilis dominate Persian politics not by territory, which they have little of, but by threat of murder and subterfuge. See, back in the 1050s or so, there were three apprentice sahirs, Abu Ali al-Tusi, Hassan-i Sabbah and Umar Khayyam, who became close friends. They wore brotherhood, and that if any achieved greatness they would share it. Abu Ali al-Tusi was the rising star, becoming vizier to the Seljuk Sultanate and taking the name Nizam al-Mulk and the title of grand vizier of the Suhhar Sulayman. As agreed, he offered positions to his friends. Umar refused, asking instead for funds to continue studying. Hasan accepted, but only to get close to the vizier. He'd secretly become a member of the Isma'ili sect, and at their instigation, he murdered his childhood friend. The Suhhar was outraged, but at the dying wish of their grand vizier, they did not seek vengeance. However, reconciliation became impossible, and a schism within the Isma'ilis led Hassan's superior, Prince Nizar, to flee to the fortress of Alamut in Persia.

Hasan-i Sabbah continued to train his followers in the ways of the sahir. The Nizari Isma'ilis became feared for their single-minded devotion, using magic to aid in their stealth and secrecy, as well as their assassinations. The Seljuk governor of Persia proved unable to stop them or even respond. The Nizaris took key towns, but in doing so they made the people fear Isma'ilism, not embrace it. The Nizaris and the Suhhar Sulayman settled into a pattern of trying to destroy each other, but losses on both sides have been about equal. The Isma'ili have settled into some Syrian mountain fortresses as well, and the most famous of the Syrian Nizaris was Rashid al-Din Sinan, who died in 1193, and became famous among Crusaders as the Old Man of the Mountains. It was in Syria that they earned the derogatory name 'hasishiyyin', smokers of hashish, which became the Crusader word 'assassin.' The Nizari are rigid ascetics and do not in fact use any drugs at all. Rather, the name comes from the disdain the people have for the wild beliefs and behavior of the Isma'ilis. In Persia, they are more often called Batiniyya, or men of the batin, and Malahida, heretics, for they reject sharia law.

The Nizari sect is divided into ranks. The lowest are fida'i ('devoted one') and lasiq ('adherent'), neither of which are initiated into the true cult. They are the assassins who give the group such notoriety. Above them are the mustajib ('respondents'), who are initiated into the first mysteries, followed by the da'i ('missionary'), bujja ('proof') and the dai'd-duat ('chief missionary'). The top of the sect is the imam-qa'im, the mystical and spiritual leader. Their philosophy is called the da'wa, or mission. A core of their doctrine is taqiyya, the concealment of belief in the face of danger. Islam stresses the importance of truth and honesty, but taqiyya allows the Isma'ilis to hide their beliefs and deny them to others, using subterfuge in the name of God.

Nizaris hold that the Qur'an's hidden meaning, the batin, contains the secrets of the universe if it can be understood properly, and they live an ascetic life according to the principles of Isma'ilism, the Rasa'il. They claim that sharia law no longer applies to those who embrace the batin, and reject the Five Pillars of Islam, receiving no benefit from them. They also reject dietary restrictions, the authority of the caliph and so on. The da'wa says that history follows cycles, each begun by a "Speaking" imam or prophet, the imam-qa'im, and followed by several "Silent" imams. The imam, they say, is the represantion of God's Will in the world, and as he is under constant divine guidance, his commands are absolute. Nizar was a member of the silent imams, followed by Hassan-i Sabbah and the other leaders of Alamut. The imam-qa'im is claimed to be immortal and holding all wisdom; in the past, he was Enoch, Elijah, Al Khidr and Ali, the first Shi'i imam. It is believed that the currenct cycle is the qiyama, or resurrection, and those who follow the da'wa are already in Heaven, where the souls of all other Muslims and non-Muslims have already been judged and suffer in Hell.

The current dai'd-duat of the Nizari is Jalal al-Din Hasan, who took the title in 1210. He has done the unthinkable: publically converting the sect to Sunni Islam. The Nizaris, however, know this is an exercise of taqiyya and have obeyed without question. Jalal al-Din hopes to make allies among the enemies of the shah of Khwarazm, such as the Caliph in Baghdad or Genghis Khan. Many Isma'ilis believe he is the imam-qa'im. The Suhhar Sulayman still treats the Nizaris as traitors who must die, and many sahirs will drive off any known Nizari, not just Nizari sahirs. The Nizaris have no special hatred of the Suhhar, but treat them as they would any other powerful person - killing them if they get in the way.

You may play a Nizari assassin, either a magic-using one (called a mustajib) or a normal fida'i or lasiq. All assassins are dutybound and loyal to the Nizari cult, and generally trained in the arts of murder, disguise and athletics. Their headquarters are the mountain fortress Alamut, roughly translated from the Daylami tongue to mean 'the eagle's lesson.' It bears a magical aura, and is used by the Nizaris to initiate their mustajibs.

Now, on to the Silk Road! The most notable thing here is Genghis Khan. At the start of 1220, he and much of the Horde are besieging Bukhara. Within weeks, it will fall, all defenders will be executed and all civilians enslaved or worse. A fire will destroy the city, and by winter, there will be nothing left but an Infernal aura and ghosts from the carnage, save for the town's minaret, which Genghis Khan will personally spare (though not the holy men of the mosque). The ruins of the mosque and the minaret will remain a strong Divine aura. Throughout 1220, the Mongols will ravage the Jaxartes river basin, destroying several towns and capturing the Shah's capitals of Samarkand and Gurganj, as well as killing the Shah himself on the shore of the Caspian Sea. Within a year, they will penetrate deep into Persia, routing the son of the shah, and two Mongol generals will begin the campaign into Russia. The Mongols leave many Infernal auras in their wake thanks to their total destruction of towns. You know, just to make things worse.

The Mongols would be less vicious if the Shah of Khwarazm's cousin, the Governor of Otrar, had not imprisoned and executed the 450-man caravan sent to him as diplomats. (He thought they were spies, or maybe he just wanted to seize their goods.) This was seen as a grave insult to Genghis Khan, especially after his second set of diplomats were insulted by a minor functionary. They will break magical seals on the water spirits bound by the people of Khwarazm, who will help to destroy the province.

Moving briefly away from the Mongol hordes, let's talk about the ruq. The ruq is a bird the size of an elephant or larger, a magical kind of creature with a stare that inspires potent fear. The largest of them can carry off elephants. They are extremely tough, but worth hunting for the vis that lies within their wingtip feathers. Good luck getting out of their talons once they grab you, though - they have the magical power to weaken those they grab.

And then it's back to the Mongols and Mongolia. The Great Steppe has been conquered by the Mongols already, overrunning both the the Turks and the Faerie inhabitants of the area, along with the Kara-Khitai nomad dynasty that was allied with them. The Mongols worship the great ancestor/nature spirit Khan Tengri, the Great Sky. The Tengri is an immensely powerful Magical being, an Elder Daimon that governs the grasslands of the Steppe and many lesser steppe spirits. A pressing question for many in the coming years will be 'what exactly is Genghis Khan?' The book offers a few possibilities.

Genghis Khan and his Horde may be Infernally empowered, perhaps the incarnation of demonic forces of retribution and punishment of sin, such as the Avengers of Evil or Angels of Punishment. Genghis Khan may be the new Zahhak, the ancient demonic foe of Persia. The horde may even contain true demons. Perhaps the Horde are from Arcadia, Faeries manifesting as the newest shape of the Biblical forces of Gog and Magog. Faeries may well have integrated into their ranks, with Mongol troopers fighting alongside centaurs or Faerie Knights. Perhaps they are less dark Fairies, drawing on the legend of Prester John, a legend derived (possibly) from the Kara-Khitai nomads, many of whom were Nestorian Christians. The story is popular enough to inspire fairies, anyway, nad perhaps Genghis Khan and his horde are fairies taking on the role of a Christian avenger against the Muslims in order to feed on the powerful vitality contained in the emotions of the Crusaders and Caliphate when they learn of it. Perhaps Genghis Khan is an agent of ture Divine wrath, though the massacres he leads make it unlikely. The simplest option, of course, is that they are as they were in the real world: Mongols led by a brilliant general, and that's it. Or maybe Genghis Khan has the blood of some ancient Mongol hero empowering him, or has been blessed by the Great Tengri spirit with immense power. His shamans are mostly Goetic summoners with a few other supernatural abilities, like skinchanging.

The End!

Choose: Choices are: the True Lineage Houses of Hermes and their secrets (Houses of Hermes: True Lineages), Mystery Cults (The Mysteries, Revised Edition), the Mystery Cult Houses (Houses of Hermes: Mystery Cults), more depth on Covenants (Covenants), the lost magic of the past (Ancient Magic), the Societates Houses (Houses of Hermes: Societates), France (Lion and Lily: The Normandy Tribunal), academic life (Art and Academe), the realms of magic and magical beings (Realms of Power: Magic), the Faeries (Realms of Power: Faerie), nobility (Lords of Men), other rival spellcasters of the world (Rival Magic), the Church (The Church), Germany (Guardians of the Forests: The Rhine Tribunal), a book on various grand goals a magus might have (Hermetic Projects) or Greece (Sundered Eagle: The Theban Tribunal).


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Rival Magic won the coinflip.

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Rival Magic

Look at this goddamn cover.

The first major rival tradition of the Order of Hermes is legendary. The Greeks spoke of a nation of warrior women, great in war, which treats men as mere breeding stock. It's said that they cut off one breast to distinguish themselves from other women. These women are the Amazons , but most stories about them are wrong. They are a society of women warriors, most of whom live on the island of Amazonia under a ruling queen. Smaller groups live near the Black and Caspian seas in secret enclaves led by generals. Sometimes they use large raiding parties, making others believe there is more than one Amazon tribe, but there is not. All Amazons owe loyalty to Amazonia. Amazonian society is extremely competitive, and there are no Amazon merchants, farmers or traders. All non-military roles in society are filled by male slaves. They are the oldest society in the world, predating Rome, the Carolingians and even the Egyptians. It has changed little in all that time.

The Amazons do not have formal laws, but rely on custom and myth to govern themselves. Their basic social unit is the raiding party, warriors banded together under one leader to loot and plunder. Several raiding parties include a sorceress, distrusted but useful. The Amazons lack written histories, but a common story among them says that, centuries ago, a king and all of his male warriors were defeated by a rival kingdom. Rather than admit defeat, the queen and all the women rode to battle, and with the aid of a priestess, they won, showing no mercy and taking no prisoners. Various legends place this in Greece, Scythia or Colopherus. They claim that they suffered a defeat at Greek hands, and three ships of Amazon prisoners were crossing the sea when the women break free and slew their captors. Having no skill with ships, they went where the wind took them, stealing horses from nearby kingdoms when they landed and retreating to far-off lands. Some legends say to Egypt, Cappadocia, Libya, Ephesus, Delos or other Aegean islands. All legends of the Amazons have in common some traits: a rebellious queen who broke social norms to avenge her husband, a spreading of followers that was difficult to track and incorporation of defeated culture in their own. The Amazons have aspects of many cultures they have fought, such as Scythian horses, Egyptian religious trappings and Greek jingoism and ethnocentrism.

Anyone can tell you where Amazons live: at the edge of the map. Since being defeated at Troy, the Amazons have intentionally fled as far as possible from male-dominated society. In 1220, they have recently relocated once again to a large island in the Caspian Sea, which they name Amazonia. Others cally it Femyny, the Maiden Land or the LAnd of Women. It is surrounded by mist and hard to find, so most don't even know it exists. To cross to the mainland, a sorceress will summon an elemental to create an earth bridge for the cavalry. The Amazons have no real interaction, formally, with their neighbors. They raid for men or goods, but have little other interest in outsiders. However, the Mongol invasion of nearby Khwarazm and the Cumans will force them to deal with the outside - Genghis Khan will not simply sit by and ignore them.

The Amazons are, within themselves, highly egalitarian. There no social classes, no distinctions. Every woman is an Amazon, a warrior. Rank is based on skill and results. Any Amazon may become Queen, should she have the skill. Once a year, each raiding party will send spoils home to Amazonia's queen, who distributes them among the people. The general of a raiding party may never set foot on the island, save if she gives leadership to another or is staging a coup. A new queen brings her raiding party to serve her, and may have to quash resistance of the old, fallen queen. The queen oversees the community and serves as judge as well as the maintainer of the slaves. She can stage raids, but they tend to be short. A queen rules until deposed and killed. When not raiding, Amazons train, but at least half the population is out raiding at any given time, leaving the other half to train their daughters. A small percentage of Amazons are old or sick, but they prefer to die in battle, so there aren't many. They serve as medics, armorers and slave caretakers.

Amazon women may take husbands - many, if they desire. Some keep their husbands with them, and househusbands are allowed, if embarrassing. Most husbands, once they do their reproductive duty, are shipped off to an eastern village, always kept small, to serve as farmers and servants, as well as raising any male children. An Amazon must kill a man in battle before she may take a husband, though there is no real stigma for sex outside wedlock, or even children outside wedlock. Male children may be raised until the age of seven and then sent to the male villages, sent immediately (where they will probably die) or killed. The mother chooses. Amazons do not sever their breasts, save for a few sorceresses. It's a myth invented by the Greeks.

The Amazons are pagans, worshipping a mix of Greek, Scythian and Egyptian deities, but they have little expectation from their gods. Sorceresses especially tend to be very suspicious of those who claim to be gods, knowing they may well be demons or fairies. They know, thanks to the greatest among their number, the sorceress Viea, that magic is not from the gods, but the Gift, even as they invoke the gods. Amazon society has very little patience for malcontents or those who will not fit. Once you go too far, you are banished and told never to return to Amazonia. If you do, you will be killed on sight. When Amazons disagree, they have a duel in the court. This settles all legal disputes. They will fight over many things - spoils, husbands, livestock, homes, children, whatever. The winner gets their way, and since Amazons usually don't admit defeat, the loser usually dies. There is no feud or vengeance for such deaths, for the loser died as an Amazon, sword in hand.

Amazonian sorceresses all have the Gift, and thus have trouble fitting in. They are seen as dishonorable and untrustworthy, though always skilled. Few realize the distrust is due to the Gift and not the winning personalities of the sorceresses, as few spend enough time with them to find out. Most sorceresses become raiders, and even occasionally generals of small raiding parties. The best parties, however, have both a general and a sorceress, two different people. Other sorceresses live in hidden caves and valleys on Amazonia, visited by Amazons who need magical aid. They often are assisted by their biological sisters, the few people who know that the Gift does not actually make them evil. Sorceresses tend to be violent against each other, raiding and stealing each others' things - after all, there's much to be gained from killing a fellow sorceress and taking her stuff. As a note: a male child born with the Gift will often be disguised as a girl and, later, a woman and brought up as a sorceress if possible. This is always kept secret, no matter what, for if Amazon society realized that the sorceress was actually a man, they would kill them immediately. There is no known Amazonian magic to change someone's physical sex, so this deception is always by mundane means.

You can play an Amazon, either a Sorceress or a normal Amazon. (Not a male, though, unless you feel like playing a slave or one of the aforementioned secret sorcerers.) Amazon sorceresses, like magi, undergo 15 year apprenticeships. Amazons speak the Amazon language, a mix of Greek and Scytian with a touch of Egyptian; there's enough commonality for someone who speaks Greek to have a rudimentary conversation. Magic is done in the ancient Amazonian Chant, and skill with the Chant makes magic last longer. It is also a language that sorceresses can use to speak to each other, though it has no written form.

Amazonian magic takes the form of pagan chants that are designed to improve warrior skills, health and so on. It is not visually spectacular, but is quite potent. It is not subtle, and sorceresses tend not to care about arcane mysteries - they're doing this for martial power. Originally, the magic was in the form of hymns to the gods, but the sorceress Viea used notes stolen from Bonisagus to codify these prayers into a system vaguely resembling Hermetic magic. It is neither elegant nor flexible, but it is more comprehensive than what used to be used. Further, she made the prayers entirely Magical, not involving the gods at all, though she couldn't stop the Amazons from using their names still. Amazon magic is divided into Vowels and Consonants, essentially Techniques and Forms.

The Vowels are: Alala , 'to open', which is named for the goddess Alala, the Amazon interpretation of Ares. Alala opens, begins, makes things yield and summons spirits. It can both heal and harm, depending on the Consonant it is used with. Ma'at , 'to measure', named for the female form of Hermes-Thoth in EGyptian theology. Old Amazon prayers used Hermes, Thoth or Ma'at, but Viea cut it down to just Ma'at. It provides information and commands spirits, though it can only be used for visual senses. The final Vowel is Papaios , 'to close', which closes or ends. It, like Alala, can heal or harm - it closes wounds, but can exhaust as well. It may also extend a sorceress's lifespan by closing her from aging. It banishes spirits, too.

We'll get to Consonants in just a bit. Amazon incantations target people based on how close they are to the caster - it's easiest to cast on yourself, then your Sisters (those you know well), then Cousins (Amazons you know the name of), Seen Strangers (people you can see that you don't know at all) and Unseen Strangers, whom you have a description of. An emotional connection can become stronger, but may never worsen, even if a Sister becomes an enemy. No spell lasts longer than a month or so...well, in theory. The better you are at Amazonian Chant, the more you multiply the base duration by, so you can end up with five or six-month spells. Inanimate targets are based on metaphysical relations - the earth beneath your feet is a Cousin, known closely but not intimately, while the far-off sky is a Stranger. The earth and sky are the primary non-living targets of Amazonian magic. Animals are always Strangers, as are earth or air elementals. Spirits are given relations as people are, so most will be Strangers unless they are Amazonian ghosts.

Amazonian magic comes in two forms: Incantations, short spells sung in battle for instant effects, which must be aimed at targets. They are similar to formulaic spells and must be learned before they can be used. Rites are the second kind of magic, longer and more complex songs similar to Hermetic Rituals. Rites, likewise, must be learned before they can be used. They can be made permanent via the sacrifice of a magical animal during the casting - the Amazonian sorceresses do not know how to use vis on its own, only in the context of animal sacrifice. As far as they know, the only purpose of vis is to strengthen magical animals.

An Amazon's 'lab' is her Temple, and within it an Amazonian sorceress may study spells, teach others, practice magic to strengthen her control of it, enchant magic items by binding an incantation into them or manufacture a scepter . The scepter is the most potent item an Amazonian sorceress can make, a mystic stick longer than a wand but shorter than a staff into which a bit of the sorceress's spirit is bound, making the device part of her. The Sorceress than chooses one Consonant, which the scepter will aid with, and inflicts a wound on herself. (This is where the cutting-off-the-breast thing comes from.) The Scepter can then be 'taught' that Consonant, increasing the skill of the sorceress when using it and helping to aim spells of that Consonant. You can only have one scepter at a time, but can destroy yours to make a new one, though you need to do another self-mutilation again.

Next time: Amazonian Consonants

Amazonian Magic

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Rival Magic

Getting an Amazon to help a Hermetic out will be tricky at beast, but a Hermetic who managed to get enough study of the Amazonian magic might learn how to restore fatigue with sorcery - something Hermetic magic has never been able to do, but Amazonian sorcery can do with ease. Further, they might learn ways to get around Arcane Connections via emotional ties rather than physical ones, or even just get around the need for Arcane Connections, period. Likewise, they might learn to use the same sort of aiming benefit that scepters provide. Amazonian magic has more to gain from Hermetics - new ranges, development of magic to touch fire and other elements and so on. Of course, almost no Amazon would ever admit their magic was lacking and fewer would be willing to listen to lesser magicians. Viea would be the greatest one able to adapt Amazonian magic with other things, but she hates the Order of Hermes above all else.

Also, side note: some magic is actually easier to use on strangers than people you're close to - Nux and Soma, specifically. Zoi and Api are easiest to use on people you know but not well, and Kardia is easiest on people you know well.

Api , 'the earth, the day', is the Scythian name of the goddess Gaia, and it is the magic of earth and daylight. As a note - a pit opened by Api magic remains open and one closed remains closed, even after the spell ends, provided that it could remain that way naturally. It also affects animals of a melancholic nature.
Alala Api opens the earth, stone and structures, creating pits or holes. It summons earth elementals, and can open wounds in melancholic animals. It also creates or enhances light and can cause earthquakes.
Ma'at Api measures the land. It can sense distance, detect qualities of earth or earthen materials, detect earth-related vis and control earth elemantals. It can also be used indirectly to, say, find enemies by detecting the movements of the earth caused by their feet.
Papaios Api closes the earth and ends sunlight. It banish or destroy earth elementals and melancholic magical animals, ward against supernatural beings, heal melancholic animals and close holes in the earth.

Kardia , 'the heart', deals with the humors (and, by extension, health and personality). It can change personality traits unless they are an essential part of someone's nature, though permanent changes are hard. It also targets fatigue and exhaustion.
Alala Kardia creates personality traits and restores fatigue, though without a Rite it is only temporary restoration. It can also reduce the pain from sickness.
Ma'at Kardia measures health, detecting disease or personality traits.
Papaios Kardia weakens personality traits by closing off the heart and causes fatigue.

Nux , 'the sky, the night', is the Libyan interpretation of the god Ouranos, a female version of the sky god. Nux magic affects the night, the sky and sanguine animals, as well as air elementals.
Alala Nux causes weather, darkens areas, summons air elementals and opens wounds in sanguine animals.
Ma'at Nux detects air-related vis, commands air elementals, forecasts weather and detects properties of the air and sky.
Papaios Nux weakens weather and dismisses or damages air elementals and sanguine supernatural animals.

Soma , 'the body', affects the human body - and only the human body.
Alala Soma causes wounds, forces orifices open, assists in childbirth and can even kill or destroy senses.
Ma'at Soma scries on people, detects physical health and wellbeing, and detects information about people.
Papaios Soma closes orifices, speeds recovery from wounds and can heal wounds directly, though it is harder and requires some Kardia requisite.

Zoi , 'the spirit', targets souls and magic itself.
Alala Zoi summons ghosts and other incorporeal beings such as demons.
Ma'at Zoi senses spirits, detects information about Amazonian magic, commands spirits, detects the Gift or supernatural powers and can determine someone's natural lifespan.
Papaios Zoi banishes or damages incorporeal beings, reduces the effects of aging and can even suppress the Gift in others...or at truly high levels, destroy it completely.

Viea is an important person to understand when we talk about Amazon sorcery. She was born in 705, the twin of Trianoma. Both were Thessalian witches, though Viea preferred summoning to hexes. Trianoma had a vision of her sister and her fighting while Bonisagus watched, and Trianoma killed Viea. Viea's interpretation was that the many isolated wizards of the world would force the two to fight each other, and to counter this, she suggested hunting and killing Bonisagus. They failed and were captured. Viea hated it - she and Trianoma planned to learn his magic and steal it, but while Trianoma saw Hermetic magic as a path to peace, Viea saw it is a weapon. She planned a second attempt to kill Bonisagus, but Trianoma told her that she would side with Bonisagus over Viea. Unwilling to kill her sister, Viea fled into the night after stealing some notebooks. Bonisagus' arrogance prevented him from admitting it caused any problem at all, but the truth is that Viea stole the notes on restoring fatigue, and Bonisagus just decided to not try to recreate them. That's why Hermetic magic can't do it.

When Viea returned to Thessaly, she asked a spirit where she would be safe, and the answer was always 'Amazonia.' Every Greek, even the Thessalians, had heard of the Amazons, so she began to hunt for them. Forty years after finding them, she became their most potent sorceress, thanks to tinkering with Amazon magic and the stolen notes. She made it more flexible, incorporating the ideas of restoring fatigue into it. She burned with hate and joined many attacks. In 783, while spying on Thessaly, she observed Trianoma with a strange man, seeking out witches to join the Order of Hermes. Assuming the man to be Bonisagus, she attacked. The battle ended with burning huts and the sisters facing off, with several Amazons dead and the man gravely wounded. Viea used her most potent magic, but it just bounced off Trianoma's Parma Magica, and Trianoma struck Viea with powerful magic, defeating her. The man turned out to be Mercere, and both he and Viea survived.

Viea never really recovered from the loss. She was growing old, while the magi were still young thanks to their longevity rituals. She took part in an ancient mystery initiation, turning herself into a magical being...but as she did it, the Amazon Queen's sorceresses attacked her, fearing her power, and she was locked away in a tomb. Flash forward four centuries. The new queen reopened the tomb, seeking advice from the being within, hoping that Viea had not succumbed to madness. Amazonia was surrounded by Hermetics and others, and Viea hatched a plan.

The current queen, Darimusa, is the same one that unsealed Viea ten years ago. She cares more about the Mongols than Hermetics, and while normally the Amazons would make allies of centaurs, no Amazon has seen a centaur in centuries. She might move her people once more, but the rites to do so are not yet ready, and they're running low on time before the Mongols arrive. Viea claims that the cause of all their problems is the Order of Hermes, who run the world as puppetmasters. They must be struck at directly! (Viea is lying, but they Amazons don't know that.) The plan is simple, which they like: hunt down and kill magi. Viea knows magi like magical areas, so they're really hunting for magical auras in the hopes of finding a covenant. Still, Derimusa is not yet convinced. By the end of the year, she'll need to make a decision, and without a better plan, it'll probably be Viea's. Which will do absolutely nothing about the Mongol threat.

If the Amazons head to war with the Order, they'll probably try to steal books - Viea wants those books, since she's sure the secret of the Parma Magica is in them. She's right. Allowing her to get it would be a huge problem - she can read, unlike most Amazons, and since she lacks the Gift following her transformation, she can convince other sorceresses to help her out, and will teach them the Parma - or perhaps teach them to read so they can learn it from the books. If the Order is lucky, it can prevent the raids and book thefts - maybe even make peace with the Amazons. If the Amazons do get the Parma, though...well, they will march to war, as one, for the first time in known history. They are fast, ruthless and vicious. Best not to let that happen.

Next time: the Augustan Brotherhood.

Augustan Brotherhood

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Rival Magic

The Order of Hermes tends to ignore court wizards - they're weak, by and large, and those who have the Gift do not remain court wizards long, thanks to the Gift's social effects. Besides, they are mere entertainers, dancing for the pleasure of the royals. They are irrelevant...or so the Order thinks. What they do not know is that there is a secret society among the most potent of these court wizards, scheming for a day when a new Roman Empire may rise again. These men, the Augustan Brotherhood , are a grave danger if they choose to fight the Order. The Order knows nothing of them, and while their magic is comparatively weak and highly focused, they have temporal power and they know the Order exists, though not much of what it can do...except the Parma Magica. They know that exists, and that it's not a spell, and would very much like to know how to do it.

The Augustans do not discriminate by religion, ethnicity or upbringing - and thus they can function across Europe. They seek a rebirth of classical literature, and claim inheritance of the magical secrets of the poet Virgil. They want a new Roman Empire, as strong and just as the days of Augustus. They are not happy with what they know of the Order - it stands outside society, and while educated, it seems to them to be uncultured and immoral. The Brotherhood prides itself on etiquette and charisma, though they do suffer the Gift despite their preference for recruiting those with a gentle Gift and charismatic natures.

The Brotherhood's history is both short and long. In one sense, their birth started in 1130 AD, when Roger II was made King of Sicily. He ruled a diverse population and sought to expand. The city of Naples joined him, but when he suffered rebellion, Naples threw in with the rebels. Roger tried to take with his Saracen cavalry and sixty ships, but he failed. Naples negotiated remarkably peaceful terms, however, and the rulers of Naples were left in place and unpunished. In 1135, Naples rose with the next rebellion. Siege was laid again, but vermin and heat forced the siege to be lifted. In 1336, Roger tried to retake it again with a huge fleet...and just as he was going to, a storm sprung up and sank most of the fleet. In 1139, the Pope himself led an army against the Kingdom of Sicily, but was forced to cede Capua to Roger after an ambush. Roger, having fought off all sorts of armies by now, decided to take revenge on his rebellious nobles. In 1139, Naples finally surrendered to him...but it was extremely clear that something was up there.

In the meantime, a Norman scholar came to Naples in search of the Tomb of Virgil, the Roman poet. His name was Ludowicus, and some feared him, for did not legend say that while the bones of Virgil rested peacefully, the city would never fall or be sacked? At some point in the summer of 1139, Ludowicus vanished before a crowd of children. A handful of soldiers waited for him to reappear, which he did, clutching a great book and a sack. No one saw where he came from, but he said it was from the tomb, though he could not lead anyone there. The soldiers poked at the book, written in Latin, but they feared it, for was not Virgil a great sorcerer? And within the sack they found the very bones of the poet.

There was good reason for fear - within the castle of Naples was a glass egg containing a tiny model of the city. This was the palladium made by Virgil when he was minister to the city's Roman governor, and while it was safe, Naples could not be taken by force. Soldiers guarded it day and night. It was widely known that Virgil had made a statue of a bronze fly that kept flies out of Naples, and a statue of a bronze archer which had once silenced Mount Etna. Other things in Naples held Virgil's enchantments, though the archer had been accidentally destroyed. Even as the bones were taken from the sack, the skies turned stormy and gray, raging against the sacrilege of Ludowicus.

Ludowicus confirmed their fears: he was an agent of Roger II, come on king's business. He told them of the legends he'd followed to reach the tomb - of the prophecies of Virgil that spoke of the Christ child, and the magics within his tomb. But none, even Ludowicus, could find it a second time. If they killed Ludowicus, Roger would punish them...but if they let the bones leave, well, Naples might fall. In the end, they kept the bones in a locked room, and let Ludowicus go. So far as the Order of Hermes knows, that's all that happened, and Ludowicus was probably a magus. So far, no magus has yet found the Tomb of Virgil, if it exists.

Ludowicus spent the rest of his days in Roger's court, learning the rites within Virgil's book. When he finished it, he realized it was the greatest tome he'd ever seen, and he burned it to keep others from reading it. He did not lose its secrets, though, and he dreamed of a new empire. He founded the Augustan Brotherhood to bring it about, that might rule as magical aristocrats under the heroic tyrant they would uplift. They have developed a potent but utterly foreign system of magic from the secrets of Virgil's Tomb. Virgil, of course, is the greatest poet who ever lived, a great pagan magician who predicted the birth of Christ. He penned the Aeneid, and was laid low by a mere mundane woman. Anyone who has learned Latin knows the Aeneid, which is used to teach it. His full name was Publius Vergilius Maro, and he was a great prophet but one who could never foresee his own future. (As a note: this is Virgil as the 13th century saw him. The real Virgil lived a very different life than the Augustans believe, but in Ars MAgica, they are correct about his life.)

See? He was a wizard.

Anyway, Ludowicus made allies throughout Roger's civil service, plotting his imperial ambitions. Henry von Hohenstaufen, who became Holy Roman Emperor in 1191, marched on the Kingdom of Sicily, now ruled by Tancred of Sicily. Naples was besieged, but saved by miraculous plague. Meanwhile, the Augustans had their own problems. Tancred was suspicious of them, beginning investigations, and a number of assassinations broke out in the Brotherhood. The winners were the supporters of Henry. How much easier would it be to make a new Roman Empire out of the Holy Roman Empire? They switched sides, and with Tancred's death in 1194, it seems likely that the Brotherhood was responsible for the fall of Naples shortly after by cracking the glass palladium - a tiny crack, but enough to dispel its centuries-old magic. Tancred died of "sickness," but it might have been murder by the Brotherhood. His three-year-old son was taken to Swabia as a captive, where he was blinded, castrated and allowed to die. Emperor Henry took the throne of Sicily, slaughtering all who opposed him. He was crowned in 1194, and had all who attended Tancred's coronation burned alive in celebration. The Brotherhood, however, were willing to overlook his brutality as he prepared to attack the Byzantines. He might reunite the Empire!

He died suddenly of malaria in 1197, though. His three-year-old son, Frederick, took the crown of Sicily, and the Brotherhood moved to control his education and regency. The child was quick and clever, possibly the one they'd been waiting for. As of 1220, the boy is now a 26-year-old man who, in time, will become known as Stupor Mundi, the wonder of the world. He is both King of Sicily and Holy Roman Emperor. Sicily is under Muslim revolt, though history shows that Frederick will soon suppress it. His court remains ethnically and religiously diverse, and he loves learning. The Brotherhood has encouraged magicians to join Frederick's court and pushed for a rise in Latin poetry, though some argue that perhaps the vernacular Sicilian poetry is also acceptable. (There is great rivalry in the Brotherhood over this.) Within four years, Frederick will found the University of Naples and practice experimental philosophy there, though he will often be distracted by his menagerie and falcons. He delights in blasphemy and mockery of religion, and some whisper he has even denounced Moses, Christ and Mohammad as frauds. As yet, he appears to lack Infernal taint, despite Papal claims. He is crowned Holy Roman Emperor in 1220, apparently ending that dispute, and the Brotherhood is sure he is the Augustus they have been searching for, the one they think Virgil prophesied.

The Brotherhood utilizes Virgilian Magic, an unusual but famous Roman tradition. However, Virgil had no apprentices - his book was the only legacy, and now the Augustans are its only practitioners. Of course, Bonisagus was aware of Virgil, and there are hints of his work in Hermetic theory, but the two systems are now very distinct and different. Virgillian magic is more limited than Hermetic magic. It has only three Practices: the Sortes Virgilianae, a precursor of the Hermetic Divination practiced by some mystery cults in the Order, Vigilo, a form of guarding magic, and Animo, which animates objects and awakens their spirits to create magical beings. Vigilo is, however, divided into six scools.

Virgilian Magic suffers several limits that Hermetic magic does not. All of it requires elaborate and time-consuming ritual, with vis used for more potent spells. Virgilian wizards cannot create enchanted devices, longevity rituals or bind Familiars. They may never cast magic on themselves, ever. They may not cause direct harm to humans with magic, though indirect harm is all right. (This may be a flaw in their theory, but they feel it reflects Virgil's personality.) Without at least a little study, a School of Vigilo cannot be used at all, unlike a magus using a Hermetic Form they don't know with a Technique they do, or vice versa. Rites are also significantly more specific than Hermetic spells - a Hermetic might ward against beasts where a Virgilian wizard wards against wolves. A spell that repels flies in Naples will not work in Rome - a new rite must be created for that. Virgilian rituals do not benefit from knowledge of philosophy or the liberal arts. And lastly, Virgilian magic cannot use sympathetic magic at all - that's outside Virgilian theory.

Next time: Virgilian Magic

Sortes Virgilianae

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Rival Magic

The first part of Virgilian wizardry is the Sortes Virgilianae , the best-known of the magics of Virgil. You take a copy of the Aeneid, open it at random and point at random to a verse, reading it and the following verse. The practice is widespread and every educated person knows of it, but only for the Brotherhood does it actually do anything useful. In fact, to perform it correctly takes a ceremony of at least half an hour or so and extreme exertion of the mind. Like Hermetic scrying, the magic can sense what happens at a distance but cannot answer questions about the future or past. Further, if a question is asked but the ritual failed, the same question cannot be asked in the same day. It is much easier to get answers about famous people, ships, sieges, cities, kingdoms and especially Carthage, Rome or Troy.

However, Sortes Virgilianae can reveal many things. It can give information on animals or plants, fires, magic, vis, auras, liquids, air, people whom you have Arcane Connections to, earth and earthen materials, animal products, plant products, the human body, emotions, scrying on places, the answers to questions known by a person or even detect the Gift. The Sortes Virglianae, in short, can learn almost anything - it's just harder the more specific you want to get.

Vigilo consists of six Schools. Vigilo rites take at least 15 minutes to cast, often more, and require vis. They also require extreme effort and are quite tiring. These rites do not use arcane circles, but ritual pentagrams, and can also be extended over an entire city. All Vigilo rites involve the loud and forceful recitation of poetic stanzas and the use of minor gestures. Silence makes the magic impossible, and soft speech makes it harder.

The School of Boreas deals in air and wind. It may ward against creatures of the air, cause weather, control weather, ward against weather, make air hard to breathe, destroy weather or weaken weather.

The School of Naiads deals in water and liquid. It can't touch liquids inside a body, though, like blood. It can ward against creatures of water, control liquids, ward against water, dry an area, reduce the amount of water in an area without destroying it utterly, destroy all water in an area or destroy a property of a liquid.

The School of Prometheus deals in fire. It may ward against creatures of fire, control fire, move fire, reduce or extinguish light, weaken or extinguish fire, chill objects or destroy aspects of fire.

The School of Stones deals in earth and stone. It may ward against creatures of earth, control dirt, weaken or destroy dirt, ward against dirt, hurl stone or destroy aspects of dirt.

The School of Sylvan Dryads deals in wood and plants. It may ward against creatures of wood, keep plants healthy, cause the leaves to fall from a plant, preserve dead plants from decay, deflect attacks by wooden weapons, control plants, spoil food, summon plants, destroy wood, animate plant products, destroy plants or ward against plant products.

The School of Vigilant Bees deals in animals. It may ward against supernatural animals or mundane animals, control animal minds, ward against animal attacks, protect animals from disease, preserve animal corpses from decay, damage animal products, calm animals, wound animals, manipulate animal emotions, destroy animal products, cause animals pain, make animals passive, weaken animals, destroy animal corpses, control animals completely, destroy animal senses, cripple animals or age animals.

The final Virgilian practice is Animo , one of their most impressive powers. Animo awakens and empowers the spirit of an object, giving it the semblance of life. These are not automata, but objects with awakened magical spirits, the results of potent rites. Much as others enchant objects, Virgilian wizards can use their Virgilian rites to shape their animations. Not all animations can move - some are static and unresponsive to all but the thing they were made to ward against. Others, like the hammer-men that guard Virgil's tomb or the stone horsemen who enforced Rome's old curfew, are highly mobile. They need not take on human or animal form. Animations are permanent, but all of them are flawed. Physical damage to one part of them, known as the animating principle, will end their magic utterly. Once this weakness is exploited, even by accident, the spirit is freed forever and the magic goes away. The animating principle is always an aspect of the animation related to its effect - for example, a tunneling miner statue that could tunnel on command would be rendered inert if the pick were destroyed. This vulnerability can never be protected by magic - if it is somehow removed, the magic vanishes. Fortunately, most non-Virgilians don't even know to look for an animating principle or that harming it will do anything.

Mobile and aware animations can be made, and can be taught, with difficulty, new skills. Spending vis makes the teaching easier. Anyone, not just the maker, can teach an animation, so it would not be rare for a court wizard to ask his friend, the captain of the guard, to teach his fencing statue proper swordsmanship. Animations, however, can never speak nor learn any abilities related to speech. They never have the Gift and cannot, in fact, learn supernatural abilities of any kind. They can, however, have spells inscribed into them. Such spells may affect the animation. Those animations that move cannot use powers while moving unless the power only affects the animation. Static animations lack this problem. Static animations may also ward entire buildings or cities without requiring extensive rituals automatically.

Creating life?

Skimming over the discussion of the various magical things Virgil left behind...integrating Virgilian magic! If, somehow, a magus were able to study Virgilian magic, they might learn to integrate the Sortes Virgilianae. However, once integrated, it becomes mere Hermetic Divination , untied from the power of Virgil's prophecies. The truth is, it was never tied to Virgil's prophecies, but the Aeneid as a divinatory tool. Several mystery cults already know how to do divination. They might study Virgilo magic to create Improved Watching Spells , allowing a spell to watch for a trigger on its own, without aid from a spell specifically designed to do so. This would largely improve Hermetic wards and make magical traps more common.

Next time: The Muspelli


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Rival Magic

The Muspelli are extremely potent, dangerous wizards of the far north. They hide in the darkness, worshipping the legendary jotnar, the giants of Norse myth. They are devoted to freeing their masters, to speeding the coming of Ragnarok. Basically, Norse myth actually did occur - and when Gullveig was burned at the stake and Loki imprisoned, the power of the jotnar was broken...but not before Loki taught some humans how to speak with him and the jotnar, turning them into the first Muspelli. Their duty was to gain power and pave the way for Ragnarok, recruiting others and loosening the bonds of the jotnar. All of the imprisoned jotnar save Loki himself have such servants. Note that the Muspelli legends do not actually match up perfectly to Norse ones - they've learned them direct from the jotnar, who are...not exactly neutral. The jotnar are immensely powerful Magical beings meant to oversee the world, but they were overthrown by the faerie gods that were the Aesir. The Aesir were weakened by Christianity, and the jotnar now test their bonds.

Now, it's highly unlikely that the world will end with Ragnarok, and it's likely the jotnar are aware that the prophecy of Urdur is imperfectly interpreted or simply wrong. The jotnar have either fooled themselves or lied to the Muspelli for their own reasons. Some of the faerie gods may know it's false, but it hardly matters to them - the truth is either unknowable or meaningless. However, the power of the Muspelli is very real. When initiated into the Muspelli, each wizard choosed a jotun as a patron. Eight in particular are popular.

Aegir Sea-King is the terrifying lord of the seas, respected and feared even by the Norse. He was brother to Gymir and escaped death by feigning peace with the gods, though he is confined to the island of Hlesey, where he plots vengeance under the pretense of brewing mead for the gods and hosting feasts. Aegir plunders gold from sunken ships, and is linked to wealth. He appears as a king with golden armor and long hair and beard, both plaited. His talisman, or gandur, is the cauldron, and Aegir owns the beer-kettle Bodn, which brews the finest of ales, storms and fates. He is allied to his brother Gymir and his wife, Gullveig, twin sister to Loki. Aegir hates his other brother, Surtur, however. The followers of Aegir ruin ports with storms and summon sea monsters, generally until bribed with food and gold or fought off by heroes. All followers of Aegir are crippled, earning their power by having their legs smashed with rocks while they swim in the sea.

Gullveig the Wicked is sister to Loki, and responsible for most of the evil in the world, or so say the Norse. Her followers claim she did this against the gods, not man. For teaching witchcraft to humanity, the gods burned her at the stake, but death could not hold her. Twice more they caught and burned Gullveig, and twice more she escaped. She is now locked in the Ironwood in the east, where she gathers the mightiest witches and mothers werewolves. Gullveig is a deceiver and has many names, such as Heid ('witch') who taught magic to women or Angurboda, mother to Leikin, Niddhogg and Fenrir. As Thokk, she ensured that Baldur would not be resurrected. As Aegir's wife she is Ran, and as Gymir's she is Aurboda. When she lies with Surtur, she is Sinmara. She may appear however she likes, but always smells of burning flesh. Her gandur is the scorched heart of a magical creature, for each time she was burned, all that remained was her heart. Her closest allies are her children, Leikin, Niddhogg and Fenrir. Her followers seek to control other magicians, especially folk witches. They have authority over the Muspelli until Loki's return, though other Muspelli tend not to accept this. All of her followers pluck out their own eyes, and so are blind.

Gymir Frost-Father is the ruler of Jotunheim, the land of giants. He takes the form of a great eagle, sending freezing winds to torment humanity. Some say he was chained in the underworld, and many times he has tried to seize the world from the gods. He especially wishes to control the goddesses of fertility and the earth, for they would complete his dominion of man. He once stole Thor's hammer, but was tricked into giving it back. With his wife, Aurboda (or Gullveig) he was father of the first generation of frost giants. His gandur is a cloak of eagle feathers. Gymir's cloak, Arnarhamur, lets him take on his eagle shape. His closest allies are his brothers Aegir and Surtur. His followers are descended from the ice giants, and most would be happy to slaughter humanity. The more moderate ones seek only to drive back humanity, herding them south to get them out of the pristine wildlands. They wish to control man's numbers and weaken the Dominion. All of Gymir's followers bear the horrifying touch of his bloodline or power: three heads. They will travel far and wide to find a child with three heads, for these children are born to be Gymir's servants.

Leikin Hel-queen is daughter to Loki and Gullveig, ruler of Nifelhel - that dark and poisonous part of the underworld full of horrible torments. The gods were so disgusted by her appearance that she was confined to the underworld, the prison of the spirits of drowned giants after the death of Ymir. As the giants need her permission to grant power to the Muspelli, she is given much respect. She is sometimes called Hel, both queen and prisoner, for she cannot leave her realm and dislikes anyone else leaving, either. She resents those who escape her and will send power to those of her servants who disrupt the peaceful sleep of such dead spirits. Leikin is a giant maid, half fair and half rotten as a corpse, with both legs broken. She rides an ugly horse that drinks dead blood, and is accompanied by the kveldrida, the spirits of torture and death. Her gandur is a knife forged in the rivers of the underworld. Her own knife is Sultur, 'Famine'. Her only ally, in truth, is Gullveig, but she can occasionally coerce Urdur to do her will. Her followers are necromancers, who may stain a man's good name with evil acts after his death. They seek to form a dead army for the day when Loki returns. However, all are enfeebled by disease, for that is the touch of Leikin.

Niddhogg Corpse-Tearer and Fenrir the Devourer are the sons of Loki and Gullveig. Generally a Muspelli will only serve one, but they share goals and many traits. Niddhogg is the dragon that tries to destroy the World Tree. He is so immense that he wraps around the world, earning the name Jormungand. His head lies in Nifelhel, where he devours corpses. Thor is his great foe, and the two have often fought. Niddhogg is content that his victory over Thor is prophesied, though his own death is just as certain. Fenrir is a mighty wolf, restrained by dwarf-made cord. It is the only fetter he cannot break, and trickery had to be used to bind him. He is destined to swallow Odin the Allfather, but only after feasting on the sun and moon. Their gandurs are, respectively, a serpent's tooth or a wolf's fang. They have no allies, though both Gymir and Surtur appreciate their savagery. Aegir would like them as allies, but Surtur blocks him. Their followers are predators and killers, though not necessarily of men. They avoid civilization, given their choice, and only hunt men who invade the wild places. They can even befriend men, and it's said they can summon magical beasts to aid their allies when treated well - but they are never tame, and when the world ends, they will be man's foes. All of their followers are mutes, either slitting their tongues length-wise or ripping out their voiceboxes, though they may still communicate with animals.

Surtur the Black is son of Ymir and brother to Aegir and Gymir. He claims to have learned smithing from Mimir in the days before the war with the gods. His skin is the color of ash, but covered in cracks that reveal the molten blood beneath. He is father of the fire giants who rule volcanoes and forest fires. His wife is Sinmara, a face of Gullveig, who sends out evil dreams to haunt the pagan faithful. His gandur is a fiery sword made of volcanic iron. His own sword, Surtlogi, is destined to end the world in fire after Ragnarok. His allies are Gymir and occasionally Fenrir. He hates his brother Aegir. His followers are crafters and enchanters, creating tools for other Muspelli. Many see them as servile, but they like to be needed, and it gives them much political power. All of them are deaf, thanks to the roar of Surtur's voice.

Urdur Fate-Spinner is the jotun of fate, sister to Mimir and mother of the three tribes of gods. EVen Odin Allfather cannot break what she has wrought, and in the early days of the world she was a neutral observer. She prophesized for any who asked, but the arrogance of the gods made them ignore or twist her words. When Baldur died despite her warnings, she grew sick of the world and retired to the underworld, where she rules the realms of bliss. Without fate at his side, Odin was weakened and the day of Ragnarok draws ever closer. Urdur continues to weave the fates of men and women as they are born, assisted by the norns. She appears as a stern old woman, though unbowed by age. Her gandur is a silver sickle, and her own sickle, Vidofnir, is all that can cut the threads of fate. She is aloof from the jotnar, but tentatively allied to Aegir due to his former friendship with the gods. She may dominate Gullveig into serving her, and she detests Leikin, who disturbs the dead. Some of her followers are bitter that the gods have abandoned fate and seek to prevent Ragnarok, and they punish man for resisting his fate. Others see it as their job to guide others to their destinies, acting as friends to humanity. Urdur favors neither. All of her followers suffer from low self-esteem and lack of true Confidence, for they abandon any notion of individual fate to become a tool of Urdur.

Scattered groups of Muspelli can be found outside Scandinavia. The Goth remnant in Pomerania and Lithuania, for example, still know of Gymir and Aegir under the names Weyas ('wind') or Wandu ('wave'). They are known in Prussia and Poland as Firnez and Uogi. In Novgorod, Muspelli are called Manala, and Urdur is known to the Finns as the king and queen of the underworld, Tuoni and Tuonetar. Leikin is Kalma, personification of Death, guarded by Surma (a combination of Nidhogg and Fenrir). Gullveig is Loviatar, the source of suffering and evil, and the Manala await Mana, their name for Loki. The Saxon Muspelli have, thankfully or not, been exterminated.

Next time: Being Muspelli.

Muspelli Socializing

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Rival Magic

All Muspelli are Gifted Companions. They spend very little time training with other Muspelli - their actual initiation is performed by the jotnar and, yes, involves being ritually marked by crippling oro ther flaws. A jotnar may scry on their Muspelli, and Muspelli can summon their jotun. Their apprenticeship lasts around six years of training in sacred areas to the jotnar, with occasional instruction from the jotun. The magic of the Muspelli relies on the etin-mod , or in Norse the jotunmodur. When a Muspelli assumes the etin-mod, they grow in size to at least five times normal, lacking any of the physical frailties of their human form. This giant form is both more physically and magically potent, and it is only the etin-mod that the greatest magic of a Muspelli may be used. Each etin-mod is designed differently. However, it cannot be maintained forever. Every hour within the etin-mod is taxing on the body, and when it can no longer take the strain, it will revert.

The Muspelli do not work together, basically ever. They have no real incentive to do it and get no benefit from it. This and the effects of the Gift just keep it from happening. This may be the biggest reason they have yet to threaten the world as a whole. Leadership is by force - a powerful Muspelli can dominate others into service, but it only really works with direct supervision. Muspelli are naturally rebellious, after all. Muspelli receive dreams and guidance from their jotun patron almost all the time, and may even try to summon them, though they rarely do. Their magic is known as trolldomur , the work of trolls. Their magic is focused through supernatural powers, which they may enhance into full spells via the practice of utiseta , sitting out, a ritual act to call on the power of a jotun. It involves making a ritual platform, then mounting it while in etin-mod, preparing and devouring a ritual meal, then chanting praise-songs of the jotun and ritually dancing in order to gather power. Self-mutilation, closeness to the patron's magic, sacrifice of other beings or magic items in ritually appropriate manners or having a powerful gandur related to the patron are all helpful. Vis may also be used to speed the ritual.

As a side note, the utiseta has a chance to weaken the local aura unless it is a Divine aura. When it does so, this weakens the bonds that hold the jotnar in prison, bringing them a tiny bit closer to freedom. (And also weakening magic in the area.) Faerie auras are easiest, and Infernal are hardest. Magical auras are actually replaced by a special form aura that strengthens Trolldomur and no other form of magic whatsoever , save that of the gruagachan and trollsynir, who may also make use of the aura. A Muspelli may summon or commune with their patron at sacred sites, using this to learn from the patron, improve the etin-mod or seek advice, though they must be careful to avoid angering the volatile jotnar.

Muspelli can learn several supernatural abilities. Entrancement is the power to hypnotize those who meet their eyes. Used via utiseta, it can enthrall huge numbers, or more deeply dominate single targets. Essentially, it becomes mind control magic.

Hex is the power to curse others by eye contact and anger, by occult signs or by Arcane Connection. It is the evil eye, and often associated with the Infernal, but not in this case. Used via utiseta, it lays a terrible akvaedi, a curse. These curses tend to be incredibly potent, and often rather deadly. They can cause diseases, too. It is more potent than the power of the Muspelli to grant bad luck, but harder to use.

Shapeshifter involves taking the form of animals. Using utiseta, it may transform others as well, or greatly expand the sorts of things you can turn into - including dragons.

Sjonhverfing , 'twisting the sight', creates visual illusions. Via utiseta, these illusions can be shockingly large and complex, or even alter the appearance of an entire landscape, which affect more than just the visual sense.

Spadomur , induces visions, answering questions of the very recent past. The visions take on the form of allegories related to the answer. Major issues affecting large numbers of people are easier to laern about than trivial questions affecting only one person. The difficulty of explaining the answer is also considered, as is the reflective object used to perform the divination - it's easier to look for answers about battle in a sword, say. Via utiseta, even the past further back than a day may be questioned, seeking answers deep in the past. (Interestingly, the primary practitioners of Spadomur, the servants of Urdur, simply cannot use it at all outside Etin-Mod or use of Threads of Fate to grant Confidence, for it requires expenditure of Confidence.)

Storm's Eye is the power to raise storms, focusing them around the user and immunizing them to the effects of these summoned storms. Stronger storms are much harder to summon. When in utiseta, the storms can last much longer or be targeted on something other than the caster. Further, a storm's thunder and lightning may be actively directed while in utiseta.

Summon Animals does what it says. Bigger or more animals are harder, and it can take a while for them to arrive. In utiseta, even larger or more numerous beasts can be summoned, or even magical creatures.

Threads of Fate may reweave fate, blessing actions based on chance, sensing the immediate future, avoiding botches, granting Confidence and so on. It is very versatile, but can be extremely hard to use. When used via utiseta, it may cancel the use of the power by others or curse people with bad luck much as it blesses with good luck normally.

Valgaldrar , 'corpse spells', revive corpses temporarily. The head must be attached to the body still, and the corpse may speak to the animator or even walk around with the truly skilled. In utiseta, entire zombie armies can be raised, or more potent zombies, which often last longer than the normal ones raised by Valgaldrar.

Wildfire grants control of fire and smoke, though it cannot create fires by magic. It just makes them move or get stronger. The use of utiseta increases the scope - whole forest fires, city-choking smoke, or even tapping into the earth-fire beneath the ground, cracking the rock to let loose lava and control it.

Winter's Breath creates frost, ice and snow by beating a drum. The stronger the chill weather is, the harder it is. Under utiseta, it may bury a whole valley or city and last for days or months.

The greatest foe of the Muspelli is the Raudskinna Compact , in theory. The name comes from the fact that the laws of the group are passed around in a red leather book, so 'red-skinned'. They were recently founded, and...well, they're not an Order of Odin, either. See, witchcraft has been outlawed in Norse lands since Christianity came. Saemund Sigfusson, the Wise, was a Gifted Norse mathematicus trained in Bologna, who realized his skills were similar to the old Norse galdramen. He went in search of other Norse wizards, meeting Bodvar Egilsson, a vitki, and Hall of Sraumfjord, a folk witch. They conceived of a compact to regulate and protect Norse wizards, and spent ten years promoting it. In 1116, 164 wizards signed on. Today, the Raudskinna largely operates in unconnected local groups, calle hreppa. A hreppur meets three times a year, at the equinoxes and summer solstice, and its main job is to defend its members against accusations of witchcraft. It is led by three stjorir, who generally have no Gift and have a respectable position in society. They are chosen by vote and last for life or until majority vote strips their title.

One stjori is the asa-stjori, representing the Aesir as well as the vitkir. One is vana-stjori, representing the Vanir and the seithkonur and volur, the folk witches and prophetesses of the Norse. Last is the alfra-stjori, representing the Alfar and galdramen. Those outside these traditions, such as trollsynir, are called utgarder and must appeal to one of the stjorir to represent them. Trollsynir are often viewed with suspicion as being close to Muspelli, but have proven themselves worthy of the Raudskinna and not seeking Ragnarok. The stjorir also judge disputes between members.

The laws of the Raudskinna are simple. First, charity. A member who loses more than a quarter of their wealth via chance or misadventure can recover half of the loss from the hreppur, though no person is required to supply more than 1/120 of their total worth. The elderly, infirm and destitute are assigned to the care of a wealthier member, though no one must bear this burden for more than one year before it is reassigned. Second, magicians may demand payment, via rates set by the Compact. Third, members should be discreet about their magic and ensure it will not offend people, as well as not discussing magical matters with outsiders. If charged with withcraft, the stjorir will defend members, but in the case of indiscreet use of magic, they owe a fee. If it was beyond their control, defense is free. Next, any member may claim any vis that was on their land, and the first to harvest vis on common land owns it. Anyone harvesting another's vis must pay a fine. If a magician dies without heir, the vis belongs to whoever claims it first. There are only a few duties of membership: first, oppose the Muspelli, never aid them and inform the stjorir if you find one. The hreppur will stop at nothing to wipe them out. Second, keep trade routes safe from the trolls and beasts of the wild lands. Last, do not perform magic for anyone on the hreppur's blacklist. Anyone who does evil magic upon a human being forfeits protection of the hreppur, save in pursuit of outlawed magicians. This includes your enemies who are not outlawed magicians - they don't want you fucking things up for everyone, so make sure they don't find out about it. You may use magic in self-defense, but not to deliberately cause injury, and even then your life must be under threat, and you may still owe a fee if you get accused of witchcraft.

Most normal people are unware the Raudskinna Compact exists, and generally laws against witchcraft only include magic done to harm others. Should a member of a hreppur lose a court case for witchcraft, the hreppur abanonds them to their fate, even if the trial was not fair. The Order of Hermes knows nothing of the Raudskinna Compact, but several hreppa are aware of it and have discussed it before. Most want to know more if they know of it, but contact has generally not been friendly in the past. Both sides would probably find each other appalling if they learned more, as the Raudskinna would not want to isolate themselves while a magus would consider most Norse wizards to be violating the core of the Code.

Next time: Soqotra


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Rival Magic

You're probably sick of all those dudes the Order of Hermes doesn't know about. Well, they know about Soqotra. See, about a century ago, an Arabic text was written for King Roger of Sicily - yeah, that same one from the Augustans. It was an atlas. the Book of Roger . The book was translated into Latin, and it contained information on a small island in the Gulf of Aden of the Arabian Sea: Soqotra. The wizards of the isle famous...and famously do not ever leave. The island was originally unknown until an Egyptian merchant vessel crashed there and was aided by a golden serpent that called itself the island's king. The serpent told the merchant's rescuers that the isle was inhabited by 75 great serpents and one young girl, and sent him off with a cargo of gold, gems and incense. That girl is said by the Soqotrans to have been the first sorceress. Their sorcerers deal with the native spirits of the isle and use the plants and animals for magic. The magical history of Soqotra is a series of half-forgotten wars between magicians.

Eventually, the familiar spirits of the magicians of similar styles were able to negotiate truces, and four distinct but disorganized alliances ruled the island, each based on one magical style and the tree whose essence powered it. These were the ancestors of today's Soqotrans, the Aloe, Cinnabar, Olibanum and Myrrh Tribes. During the reign of Alexander the Great, Minoan priests of Zeus tried to colonize them, and many locals claim Alexander himself conquered the island on his way home from India. The King of the Olibanum Serpents made an army of local magicians to fight off the Greeks, but failed. Peace was negotiated. The original colony was reinforced by later Egyptian pharaohs, the Ptolemies. The Soqotrans have three different stories to explain where the priestly caste went.

Some say the priests refused to take Soqotran wives. Some say they all took Soqotran wives and went native. The third group says that their magic was religious, and when Saint Thomas converted the entire island to Christianity, they forsook their gods and magic. In any case, the Greek and Egyptian colonists helped systemize the magic of Soqotra and created the island's political structure, though a council of native magicians has replaced the priests of earlier eras. Soqotran magic may well have gathered knowledge from the other empires that briefly ruled it - Rome, Ethiopia, Axum and Oman were all, for a time, significant players in the area, and Indian traders regularly visit the island.

As of 1220, the magicians of Soqotra rule the island and a few surrounding isles, with the aid of the magical spirits that act as their allies and intermediaries, preventing the people from rebelling against their Gifts. Eight magicians are elected to the ruling Council of Tribes, communicating via spirit messengers and unGifted assistants, usually the descendants of other magicians. The magician caste is divided into four tribes, each of which has two council members, one chosen by tribal vote and the other chosen by random lot. Each tribe, in theory, is descended from one of the native traditions of magic, Aloe, Cinnabor, Olibanum or Myrrh, and commands (and is subtly controlled by) some of the native spirits. Each magician specializes in one of these areas, but it is not unusual to specialize in an out-of-tribe style, for adolescent mages are taught by all tribes. Magicians change tribe rarely, and only before getting a spirit aide.

Soqotrans, as a note, practice rap battle for prestige. The more poems you can recite from memory, the more prestige you have. Anyway. When the Council of Tribes meets, each wizard stays in a room from which they can see and hear all but cannot be seen or heard. Each uses an olibanum serpent as representative, and the ninth member of the council is the King of the Olibanum Serpents, who guides it when there is deadlock.

Each tribe of Gifted magicians meets rarely, and communicates via spirits, to prevent conflict due to the Gift. This allows the King of the Olibanum Serpents to control the flow of information, especially as each tribe is in practice led by a potent spirit who assigns lesser spirits as aides to the magicians. Magicians are taught not be each other, but the spirits. A child chosen by lot to serve on the Council of Tribes may not vote until the age of 21. (If their tenure ends before then, too bad for them.)

The Aloe Tribe is mostly women, and it is skilled in the magic of healing and repair. This tribe gathers vis from bitter aloes, harvested only in years of good weather. This allowed the weather-controlling Olibanum Tribe to defeat them in ancient times, but that animosity is long forgotten. Today, the Olibanum warriors greatly prize Aloe magic, for it allows complete, if slow, healing of injury. Aloe magicians live in the mountains all over the island, for the aloe trees are spread widely. However, as far as they know, their aloe is found nowhere off the island, so they tend not to want to leave. Their patron is the bennu, a sort of Soqotran phoenix, though the tribe claims that is a recent change and that their old patron was an elephant.

The Cinnabar Tribe are preservers, drawing vis from the cinnabar trees. These trees grow high above sea level, so the Cinnabars live largely high in the mountains. Their magic is defensive, and so is popular as a secondary skill in all tribes. So far as the Soqotrans know, cinnabar is found only on Soqotra, and this combined with their magic's purely defensive nature makes Cinnabar magicians hesitant to leave. They harvest cinnabar every two years, though not in any coordinated manner. In the time of the magical wars, it was more common to coordinate to power preemptive attacks. Their spiritual patron is a large red gecko.

The Myrrh Tribe us magic of history and strengthening. Myrrh is found only on the southern, inhospitable end of the island, where the Myrrh tribe often battle evil female jinn that cause sickness. They do this by calling on good female jinn or folk magic, and they have many faerie allies. The jinniyah, as female jinn are known, are their spiritual patrons, who entered a pact with the King of the Olibanum Serpents at the end of the magical wars. The Myrrh Tribe know Myrrh is found elsewhere.

The Olibanum Tribe use commanding magic, which controls other things. They dwell in the north, and are the most skilled warriors. Their spiritual patrons are the Olibanum Serpents, so they have much prestige. Each olibanum tree is guarded by a serpent, and the serpents dislike outsiders. This is why the Olibanum Tribe and many other magicians are hesitant to even speak to outsiders. The Olibanum Tribe are also the keepers of justice on the island, along with their serpents. Olibanum may only be collected one fortnight out of the year, and it is seen as a sacred act. Harming the olibanum trees, even by accident, is a crime. Olibanum, also known as frankincense off of Soqotra, is known to grow elsewhere, but they don't really care. It is said that the Greeks stole olibanum, and that was what started the war against Alexander.

Soqotran sorcerers are considered roughly magus-level in power. There are also folk witches on the island, but they are seen as criminals, especially if their magic causes harm to others. Witches, male or female, are exiled if convicted. All Soqotran sorcery, meanwhile, requires special incense rituals, which burn what the Soqotrans know as 'essential incense' but magi would call 'vis'. The Soqotrans do not know that vis comes in forms other than the incense they make from the trees. A perfunctory incense ceremony allows magic to be done, but has no benefits other than that. It is what you use when you have the bare minimum of time. Soqotran sorcery is able to divide pawns of vis into 'sparks', a tenth of a pawn. This is what fuels any Soqotran spell. A minor incense ceremony still uses only one spark, but more nonmagical incense. It is the equivalent of ceremonial magic, allowing the caster to use the Artes Liberales to benefit the spell, but it takes fifteen minutes. A full incense ceremony takes fifteen minutes and quite a few sparks and incense, but allows for the equivalent of Ritual magic. There is one weakness compared to Hermetic Rituals, though: the Soqotran sorcerer's spirit ally must be present for it to work.

The Spirit Ally has an Arcane Connection to its sorcerer, and any other spirit allies the sorcerer has. By touching the sorcerer, magic may be transmitted through it, allowing spells of touch range to strike much further away. (For example, your average olibanum serpent is 20 feet long.) The Spirit Ally may expend its power to empower the sorcerer and strengthen their spells, though only for magic related to the tribe the spirit represents. Spirits of all but the Myrrh tribe never offer aide without the King of Olibanum Serpents' permission, but the jinniyah of the Myrrh Tribe do not care for such things and will offer whenever they like, so long as the Queen of Myrrh, their leader, approves. The spirits also, as a note, have their own abilities that they may use to help out. For example, the red geckos may turn invisible and have a bite that warps people, as well as blood that warps people. Of course, each is tied to a tree and will die if the tree dies. (Only the jinniyah do not share this weakness.) The herons of light are the servants of the bennu, as are the dark night herons; either may serve a sorcerer. They can light fires, destroy minor demons and teleport. The jinniyah may enthrall people to their voices or entangle them in plants. Jinniyah appear to die when their tree is destroyed, but in fact merely become a different kind of faerie. The olibanum serpents are actually a sort of worm, a limbless dragon. They can grant the power to ignore sleep, read minds or control those who breathe their perfumed breath.

Aloe Magic restores things. It can dispel magic of the Aloe style or similar magics, heal people or animals, restore objects, regrow limbs or missing parts, return plants or animals to life, remove Flaws or restore lost Virtues. They can even duplicate objects by taking a piece of them and regrowing the object from that, which doesn't get rid of the old object. (Which, naturally, may also be restored.) This is called 'seeding', and it does not copy magical effects or living things - the living grow as corpses.

Cinnabar Magic preserves things. It slows aging, dispels magic of the Cinnabar style or similar magics, resists damage or disease or grants immunity to poisons, disease, deprivation or even materials.

Myrrh Magic commemorates things. It can dispel magic of the Myrrh style or similar magics, grant Virtues or bonuses to specific activities or grant Flaws or penalties to specific activities. It does all this by tying into stories and memories, drawing on traits of people in those to inflict onto people now.

Olibanum Magic commands things via verbal orders. The things need not understand the commands, nor even be intelligent, but they must be given commands. Olibanum magic cannot control minds, just bodies. It my dispel magic of the Olibanum style or similar magics and control movements of objects or living beings. 'Weather' counts as an object, though it is quite high level.

Soqotra, as a note, is also home to the syreni, a form of winged serpent that is particularly clever and may be tamed by magicians. Nice little things, really. The Order is aware that Soqotra exists and has sorcerers, but they're too far away to easily care much about. Ex Miscellanea has often considered trying to recruit them, but they have poor information on the island, believing the locals to be much weaker than they actually are. They also doubt the island's Christianity, given it appears to be ruled by a dragon, fairie and phoenix. House Jerbiton and Criamon are also interested in Soqotra, though less so.

The Soqotrans are more aware of the Order than they appear. The King of the Olibanum Serpents knew about the Founders but didn't want to send his people to find more about the Order. He knows the Order hunts magical beings for vis and are belligerent expansionists. Neither makes him like them. He believes that when the wealth of vis on the island is discovered, the Order will try to seize it by force, and so he has ordered his people to avoid contact with European wizards. The Soqotran leaders are aware, by and large, of the rough shape and structure of the Order, though they do not understand what or how the Parma Magica is done/

A Hermetic might study the Soqotrans in order to learn how to more easily bind Familiars, as the Soqotrans are not limited by the power of their spirit allies or their size. They might learn how to slightly improve their longevity rituals from Cinnabar magic. They may well learn the magic that allows the Soqotrans to tie a spell's duration to the burning of incense, or with much more effort the method by which a Soqotran may make a spell last in perpetuity. Likewise, they might learn how to preserve and store luck as the Soqotrans do, or how to subdivide pawns of vis into sparks to fuel magic helped by casting tools.

The End!

Choose: Choices are: the True Lineage Houses of Hermes and their secrets (Houses of Hermes: True Lineages), Mystery Cults (The Mysteries, Revised Edition), the Mystery Cult Houses (Houses of Hermes: Mystery Cults), more depth on Covenants (Covenants), the lost magic of the past (Ancient Magic), the Societates Houses (Houses of Hermes: Societates), France (Lion and Lily: The Normandy Tribunal), academic life (Art and Academe), the realms of magic and magical beings (Realms of Power: Magic), the Faeries (Realms of Power: Faerie), nobility (Lords of Men), the Church (The Church), Germany (Guardians of the Forests: The Rhine Tribunal), a book on various grand goals a magus might have (Hermetic Projects) or Greece (Sundered Eagle: The Theban Tribunal).

The Burning City

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Hermetic Projects

Hermetic Projects is basically all about insane things that your wizards can spend a career trying to do. First up? The Burning City , a project designed to create a covenant in the heart of a volcano. Yeah. Volcano base. Or at least a volcano lab, or maybe just a trip into a volcano - it has rules that will be handy for all of that. Why, it asks, would anyone ever even consider this? Well, some Mystery Cults might require it for initiation. The heart of a volcano might have a very strong aura. A lab inside a volcano could take advange of the natural features for labwork. A magus might have a flaw requiring them to be near a volcano to do magic. A Magus who wants to study Ignem might suffer a flaw requiring materials related to fire and be potent enough to need, well, a volcano to study. A volcanic heart might contain potent vis, or a portal to a supernatural realm. And, of course, a volcano base is extremely secure - who the fuck wants to assault a volcano? And maybe you're friends with fire elementals or whatever inside the volcano.

Now, where in Mythic Europe will you find volcanos? Well, the Greek island groups of Methana, Milos, Nisyros and Santorini are all volcanic. Italy has the Capi Flegrei, the Burning Fiuelds, about five miles of volcanic area near Naples, where the last eruption was 1158, when the crater Solfatara exploded. Mount Etna is one of the most active volcanoes in Europe, too, near the Sicilian city Catania. It last erupted in 1194. Lipari is an island near Italy that is volcanic, as is Stremboli. Vsuvius, likewise, is in Italy. It and Stremboli are both active but low levels pretty much constantly. And there's the islands of Vulcano and Vulcanello, whiuch are volcanic. In Iceland, there's Hekla, Ljosufljo, Reykjanes, Krsiuvik and Brennisteinsfjoll. Oh, and Ketla, though that's beneath an icecap, as is Eyjafjallajokull, and Bardardbunga is benath a glacier. Oraefajokull, the highest peak in Iceland, is a dormant volcano.

So, can you make a volcano? Yeah. Making a volcano, volcanic rock, lava or ash is Creo Terram. Volcanic fumes are Creo Auram. Causing or preventing an eruption is Rego Terram with an Ignem requisite. Controlling lava flow is Rego Aquam, and turning lava into something elsei s Muto Aquam. Moving volcanic ash in the air is Rego Auram, and talking to a volcano is Intellego Terram. Intellego Auram and Terram are also good for finding volcanos, by hunting for the scent of ash, generalized mapping, detecting volcanic rock or identifying volcanos in mountain ranges. Volcanic rock, of course, is an Arcane Connection to the volcano that made it, though not usually to the things inside the volcano.

Things to worry about : Lava! Molten lava is extremely dangerous, especially if it does more than just splash you. It will kill you very quickly. Armor has barely any defense against it, too. And of course there's boiling mud and water around volcanos, which are significantly less dangerous. The heat itself is quite nasty, though mages of Ignem will be able to ignore it. The poisonous fumes near the crater are very nasty, too. And of course, being caught in a volcanic eruption exposes you to lava, fumes, falling rocks, and burial by ash. You're going to want stuff like Rego Aquam with Ignem or Terram requisites to protect against lava, Muto Animal with Ignem requisites to change horses into creatures that can walk on lava, and Muto Corpus with verious requisites to transmute your own blood into lava, immunizing you to most heat-based damage. Perdo Auram can purge the toxic air, and Rego Terram or Aquam can control the volcano.

So, what first things first: to colonize a volcanic crater, you need ground to build on. You might build around the rim, but that's gonna have to be stabilized. You might create islands within the lava, using magic to cool them and keep the air safe around them. You might use magic to build things directly from lava, or build a flying building inside the crater. Such works require great magic, of course, but you're in this to win it, right? You might also design spells to harvest stone from the volcano's depths, as the minerals are quite valuable. Be warned, though, legend has it that several volcanos, including Mount Etna, are gates to Hell. You might have problems there. But hey, thermal baths! And beneath Vulcano or Vesuvius, there is said to be a forge of Vulcan. Very nice.

Of course, there might be all kinds of supernatural beings inside the volcano, but you can deal with them, right? Wards help. Of course, all of these magical things are often very costly, but there's great benefits to a volcano lab. You might well harness it to help study Perdo, Auram, Ignem or Terram, as well as making your lab more pleasant to be around. And a volcano can greatly assist in experiments - where else will you get the chance to test magic on the earth's own blood?

Next time: The Tower of Babel

Great Towers

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Hermetic Projects

So, you’ve read about the Tower of Babel and you decide, screw it, I’m going to ubild a Great Tower , and this time I’ll do it without pissing off God and while exemplifying the best of humanity. Okay, sure. This is a great idea. Let’s make sure you understand what you’re getting into. Your standard for big, amazing buildings is either cathedrals or Italian towers. You know what goes into that? Educated architects, for one. You need someone who can just design the thing before you even start. So find a good architect and pay him well, because he’s going to be drawing up plans for a few years.

Now that you have your plans, you’re going to need raw materials. That’s the most expensive part of any building project – and that’s saying something. This is why stones are carved in the quarry as much as possible – it makes them cheaper to transport. Then there’s the falsework – the scaffolding, centering and shoring that you get rid of when you’re finished. That stuff all needs to be built, too. And then there’s the craftsmen and crew. Even a cathedral is the work of an army. Your average cathedral takes 400 masons, 200 stonecutters and quarrymen, 50 smiths and carpenters, 100 assorted other craftsmen and artists and 2000 laborers. You have to feed and house all of them.

But before you can do any of that, you’re going to have to find somewhere to build the damn thing. The most obvious spot for a nice, secluded Great Tower is, of course, the ruins of Babel. But, well, first you have to find Babel. All that anyone knows is that it was in the land of Shinar, between the Tigris and Euphrates. That’s it. And the ruins are likely to be home to either a Divine or Infernal aura, possible the ghosts of the last towermakers, and quite possibly a Divine curse preventing language from working or shit from being built. But hey! You can overcome all that, right?

Okay, maybe you’d prefer something simpler. If you want to build the biggest tower ever, why not build in the mountains? Tons of raw stone and you start up high already. Of course, the elements are against you – it’s hard enough just to survive in some high areas, let alone build a supernaturally huge tower. Then you have the logistics of procuring all non-stone materials. Then you have to attract, supply and retain a workforce in a remote location. But hey, maybe you’ve got a mountain town nearby, and maybe you’ll use magic to protect the tower and keep the supplies coming. Hell, why not build the thing in a volcano?

Or maybe you prefer the idea of a secluded island tower, away from the scrutiny of either mundane people or the Order. Of course, you’ll have to get the raw materials there. And the workforce. And it won’t remain secluded for long – once your tower is tall enough to cast a shadow over the horizon, someone’s going to notice.

So maybe, instead, you’ll build the thing in a regio! After all, a regio may well be set up to help support the magic you’re using for the towe anyway. On the other hand, the workforce are likely to not appreciate the strange cosmology of regiones, and the Tower itself may well become warped by the magical aura. Plus you might ruin the place by destroying its natural splendor and beauty, destroying the regio. Oops.

But hey, why not just build the damn thing on an open plain? Sure, you’re going to be seen as a direct challenge to mundane authority. Sure, you’re going to terrify, anger and annoy the mundanes. Sure, the Order may get very annoyed with you for doing that. But it solves all those other problems, right?

Okay, let’s just assume you’ve found a site. Now you’re going to want to get the Order’s support, because they’re definitely going to notice what you’re doing. The Great Tower is not exactly a subtle project. You’ll have good luck in places like the Normandy Tribunal, where tradition is not as big a deal as, say, the Greater Alps Tribunal. The British Isles and the Stonehenge, Loch Leglean or Hibernian Tribunals have plenty of wilderness to use, so they might be good. Same for the Novgorod or Levantine Tribunals. But, well, you still need to play politics.

But let’s assume the Order’s okay with your plans now. You need to have some idea of the scale of this project. We’ll assume your tower is 2000 feet in diameter and probably going to be several thousand eet tall. The Lincoln Cathedral, a 500 foot building that is one of the tallest in Europe, was started in 1092 and will not be finished until 1311. The tallest peaks in the Alps are over 15,000 feet tall – and the Great Tower is meant to be bigger than that. This is a multigenerational project.

You’re going to need very strong foundations, likely stone columns sunk in earth, with more pillars being added around the area as the tower grows, to support its height. Supporting pillars, towers and buttresses will be needed. You’re going to need staging areas to allow materials to go up and down the tower, plenty of balconies for observation or other purposes…and how long is this going to take? Well, let’s assume your average master mason. He might manage 80 feet a year. A mason with twice the skill of such mere masters might double that to 160. A supernaturally skilled perfect mason isn’t going to get more than 240 feet. This is a very longterm project . And God help you if it gets damaged by storms or fires.

Plus you’ll want to give the place an aura, which will likely attract all sorts of supernatural beings to poke around. Hope you’re ready for that.

But hey, at least you can use Creo and Rego magic to help construct the tower, conjuring up stone or even smaller towers to help build the place. There are even spells you could design to conjure up sections of the Great Tower itself, fully formed. They won’t be easy, though, and if you fuck up…well, don’t fuck up. Easier to just help the mundane craftsmen with enchanted cranes or conjuring mundane stone and other raw materials, or using magic to carve the stone. It’ll still take time, but at least you’ll cut down on manpower needed. And hey, maybe you’ll invent magical elevators or guardian gargoyles to help protect the place. The great heights will be proof of your power and give access to areas of the sky never before seen by man, for use in experiments. Plus it’ll make it easier to use scrying magic, since you can see so far and thus call up visions from anywhere you can see. Very handy.

Just, uh, expect this to take centuries.

Next time: Magical Boats

Hermetic Shipyard

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Hermetic Projects

The Hermetic Shipyard is a project to produce other projects. Shipbuilding is a bit, important industry in Europe, one that is done by educated men. Ships are extremely valuable, and many covenants need ships. There's currently only one Hermetic shipwright out there. Why not do better than him? Build a shipyard and make magical ships. Your average nonmagical shipwright's an educated, literate fellow with a deep understanding of wood an dmetal, though generally they are not carpenters themselves. They head the team of craftsmen that make the ships. Your average shipyard needs water access, space for craftwork, maybe some docks. Certainly some slipways. You;ll need some rope and sailmaking facilities, too. Very specialized trades.

And you need to know how to build a ship. There's two main methods: first, the clinker-built ship, which has overlaping planks, allowing the ship to flex more along its length. This is good for rough waters and common in the north. The other kind of ship, more common in calmer waters, is the carvel-built ship, which has a smooth hull with plans butting against each other. Carvel-built ships can be larger, but are often heavier and slower. Your ship's hull is generally treated as a single entity, with any upper works like fore and aft towers being seperate - you can do the same with enchanting.

Now, you've decided to make your shipyard. You will need a location. Ideally, it has land for drydock that is protected from storms and tides, but has easy and direct access to the water. You will also need strong supply lines - you'll be using ungodly amounts of wood, iron, canvas, rope and other materials. You probably also want a magical aura, which typically means away from cities and towns. At least Rego Terram, often with Aquam requisites, will help you reshape rivers and inlets, as well as drain marshes. Or, I guess, you can make it away from the water, but that means you need a way to get your ships to the sea. Magic is possible, but very expensive.

But okay, you have a place. Now you need your craftsmen, and getting them on board is always a challenge for the Gifted. But let's assume you can do it. Now, you need a lab in the shipyard - and a big one. After all, you can't enchant shit outside a lab. And most labs are not made to contain something as big as a ship. Building and designing that will take time, but it's doable. Now the rest of the shipyard needs to be built, and any local shipwright's guild is going to notice it and become involved. Shipyards can't really be disguised - they're neither subtle nor really like any other form of workshop.

Now that you're set up, it's time to build your boat. You can, of course, make it with your mundane team. That's not too bad, but time consuming. Or you can build the thing by magic, so long as you have the raw materials to craft it from. This won't be easy magic, but Rego Herbam (with a Terram requisite for the nails and such) can do it. Magic can handle carpentry, and without even vis - after all, you're just transforming what exists into a constructed form. Or, if you feel like spending a lot of vis, you can use Creo magic instead, and just conjure the boat into existence whole cloth. All of this is doable.

But now you need to enchant the ship. The book provides plans for the construction of the Hermes, a magical boat designed to go...well, in any place normal boats can. Without much need for a crew. It's a useful thing to make, even if you're really after flight or such. After all, once you make it once, all your notes for the enchantments are available, and you can remake it much easier. The ship, once finished, will be able to reshape itself, taking on the form of a clinker-built ship or carvel-built, or even different kinds of ships. It will always rest level in the water, and it will navigate itself on command. It can even steer itself with a strong magical tiller, and change its own sails. You will probably also want devices seperate from the ship itself to command the winds and waves, and to prevent fires.

And then, once you've built it, you can use the plans for later, more outlandish ships. Ships, perhaps, which dive beneath the waves, sinking on command and granting those aboard water breathing, sailing along the undersea currents. Or ships of the sky, which fly through the clouds. The flying one is, in fact, easaier than the underwater one. None of it is easy, of course - but once you're done, you will be the finest shipwright in the world. Of course, magic can create ships from other materials, too - there are spells that can be made to turn a building into a ship, or to create a ship from sand.

Next time: The ultimate Wizard's War.

Intangible Assassin

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Hermetic Projects

The Intangible Assassin is a project designed to excel at Wizard’s War. It focuses on using relatively low-power effects and high Penetration in order to defeat other magi. Why would you do this? Well, maybe you have a bunch of other magi you want to kill in Wizard’s War. Maybe you want to hunt down rogue magi – infernalists and criminals, say. Maybe you want to develop these strategies for dealing with supernatural beings from the safety of your lab, or to covertly take out normal people. It’s also great for going after those who hunker down in Divine auras, or as a protection against Wizard’s War. Of course, if you’re worried about that, you might well leak some of the spells involved by giving copies to the Great Library of Durenmar, dissuading attack. You might even start a few Wizard’s Wars to prove that you’re an unstoppable foe, though that’s…rather sociopathic.

Wizard’s War, you will recall, is the ultimate conflict between magi. Hermetic law allows it to be declared for any reason, and killing during Wizard’s War is totally okay, no sanction can be placed on you. Formal Wizard’s War must be declared Wizard’s War, you will recall, is the ultimate conflict between magi. Hermetic law allows it to be declared for any reason, and killing during Wizard’s War is totally okay, no sanction can be placed on you. Formal Wizard’s War must be declared on the night of the full moon, and begins one month after that, lasting for one month. It’s usually fought for political gain, personal disputes or resource capture, though sometimes it is declared mostly to force someone to hide in their covenant rather than any real plan to cause harm. That’s a good way to get, say, someone to stop interfering for a month if you think you can scare them. Pays to be careful, however – they can often have allies. Of course, it takes a month for any counter-declarations to be prepared and made, at least.

Most magi like to use that month of grace after receiving a declaration to prepare their defenses. It’s not enough time for new spells, but it’s time to get somewhere safe, at least, and to gather vis and defensive magics. Of course, a devious (and lawbreaking) magus can prevent this by, say, attacking and killing the foe before declaration, then using necromancy to hide the death until the War officially begins. Illegal, but clever. Occasionally, someone will declare Wizard’s War on an entire covenant, generally to avoid prosecution for damaging the place. This allows legal use of spells like the Wizard’s Communion against the foe, though, so it’s generally best to keep one of your buddies from getting involved so that your enemies lack that excuse.

The essential ingredient for the Intangible Assassin is the Intangible Tuynnel, an effect of Rego Vim which opens a mystical conduit between you and your target. While this conduit exists, both you and the target may cast spells through the tunnel as if you were touching each other, so long as the spells are less powerful than the tunnel is by a certain amount. Any number of spells that fit the criteria can go through the spell, though. Spells must target the original target of the tunnel or the caster, of course, but you can target a group on the other side so long as the target is a member of that group, and you may use sensory spells based on the target’s location, as long as they’re inside an area that the spell can target. If they’re not, the spell will fail. Other magi may cast spells through the tunnel, too, targeting either end as if it were in the same place as the end they’re nearest to. Anyone using the tunnel has to know it exists, however – and only the original caster knows that it’s there when it’s cast. Anyone else is going to have to somehow detect it by magic in order to cast spells through it, even if they theorize it’s there beforehand. Of course, the spell provides no scrying on its own, and it has to penetrate magic resistance. Auras apply as normal, as does the Aegies of the Hearth. The tunnel lasts for the full duration of the spell that made unless dispelled. Any spell cast through the tunnel lasts its normal duration, even if the tunnel ends, unless it requires maintenance. You can use magic items through a tunnel, but generally not non-Hermetic powers. Can’t stab someone through it, though.

Your standard tunnel lasts only while you concentrate, but it’s entirely possible that you could design one that just lasts a set period, anywere from a minute or so to a month or more. You’ll want to be confident before doing that, however. Most of the time, you will also need an Arcane Connection to do it, unless you can actually see your target while casting, which is usually not the case. A side use of this power, as a note, is the ability to cast it on your warrior buddy and basically just buff him up from home while he goes out to kill shit for you.

So, you have your tunnel. Now you’re going to want to figure out how to manipulate it, since…well, your target can shoot back through it, and often better than you can if it’s the concentration-focused spell. And if you aren’t, well, you can’t shut the thing down in emergencies. Sure, there are spells that can just shut the thing off, but maybe you don’t want that, since maybe you want to keep it up for later. Fortunately, you can develop spells that will seal off the tunnel for a time, either a tunnel you create or, with more effort, any tunnel.

But how do you defend against a tunnel someone else makes? I mean, you have to figure out how it’s present. The easiest way to do that is to make a nice protective item to do it, though it will take time and effort to create. The sample they provide is the Assassin’s Bell, which is enchanted with two spells: first, one that watches for tunnels. Second, one that makes the bell ring when the first spell detects something. Then, you just need to invent a spell that either detects tunnels for yourself…or you go the easier route: a spell that will grant you the senses of any bell you touch. Normally, that’s useless, but you’ve made a bell with supernatural senses!

Now that you’ve made your tunnel, you’re going to want to develop some spells to fuck people up through them. On the easier end, you can do simple things like cause stutters to prevent retaliation, or cause minor burns or freezing, along with simple spells to, say, detect whether your target is sleeping. Once you’ve managed that, you can go for nastier tricks, like causing wounds directly, stealing voices, dispelling the Parma Magica or warping the face and appearance. Or, f you are really nasty, causing terrible aging or weakening magic.

But there’s just one problem: to do this all effectively, you have to land the tunnel. To do that, you’re going to need Arcane Connections before your war starts. And oh my, those can be trouble to get. The simplest and most effective way to get a connection, of course, is to have some of your target’s blood – but that usually requires either fooling them into giving it to you, which is very, very hard in many cases, attacking them to get some of it or having an excuse to gather it. (For example, many magi keep blood samples from their apprentices in case of later disagreemnts.)

But, you know, blood’s not very subtle. A book or lab text is an Arcane Connection to its author…but only for a few weeks after it’s written, unless you move quickly and get it fixed in a lab. Most magi don’t send out copies of their work until a month or two after writing it, as a result. So you’ll have to be sneaky and steal a copy. That’s going to be tricky! Getting ahold of a relative will also help, though iut won’t function as an Arcane Connection in itself – it will just make your spells better at bypassing magic resistance via sympathy.

Certamen is a good way to get ahold of an Arcane Connection – you can challenge someone to a duel to get ahold of their possessions, claiming they stole them. Sure, a Tribunal will probably fine your for it later, but only if the issue is brought to them…and Tribunals only gather once every seven years. Win a Wizard’s War by killing your target, and who’s going to bring you to trial? Of course, there’s another way – the winner of a Certamen duel that goes all the way to unconsciousness gets to cast one free spell on the loser, bypassing all magic resistance utterly. If you’ve planned the duel properly, you can, say, steal a mouthful of their breath. That will only last a few hours as a Connection…but if you get to your lab fast enough, that’s enough time.

You can research your target and produce either a daily or nativity horoscope to increase your sympathetic connection to the target, much like using your blood relative, but it won’t create any Arcane Connection on its own. So can learning the target’s birth name or nickname. Unfortunately, if the name you learn is one that was granted as part of a baptism, it’s useless – and most magi know that, so they use their baptismal names. A signature works, however, and most magi sign their work. The hard part is going to be lifting the signature without damaging the works they send to Durenmar – but magic can help you out there. A little Rego Herbam with a Muto requisite can just make the ink dance off one page and onto another piece of paper. (Assuming it’s made of a plant product. Other inks require other forms.) Lastly, symbolic representation of your target can also boost sympathy. One of the easier ways to get that is to make a magical mirror. The only thing the mirror does is, on command, take the image it reflects and continue to project it until the magic runs out. It doesn’t even have to pierce Magic Resistance, since it does no magic to anyone, just the image it sees. It’s a very easy magic item to make.

Now, the Aegis of the Hearth may well get in your way, but you should be using enough Penetration to get through it. But if you really, really need to avoid it, there are ways. For example, you can use Mentem magic to make your target believe that the War was declared at a different time, keeping them from going into hiding. You can temporarily suppress the enemy’s Aegis with Vim magic, or even utterly dispel the Aegis. Both will get you into trouble if detected, of course, but they’ll work.

Next time: Liches.

Living Corpse

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

I have commandeered a really shitty laptop so I can finish Hermetic Projects before I get back to my apartment tomorrow, because I want to start on a new book then. So I'll try to have the final Project up later today.

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Hermetic Projects

So, what is a Living Corpse ? It's one of the ways that a Hermetic has to cheat death. Necromancy may animate the shell of the body and can summon te animating spirit, tying them together. Imagine a ghost bound within a human corpse. That is the Living Corpse. A ghost needs to be bound into a "container", but such a container need not be a hollow vessel - a book, a rock, a corpse or even an organ all work. To create a living corpse is, in theory, very simple. First, animate a corpse. Second, call up a spirit. Third, anchor the spirit to the corpse. Fourth, give the spirit control of the corpse. But how can it be done so that it lasts?

The simplest answer is just to use spells to do it. Animate a corpse, bind a ghost to it, then give control of the animating spell to the ghost. It's four or so spells, assuming the ghost you are binding isn't your own. That gets...complicated. But now, there is a problem with this: such spells cannot last more than a single year. For some, a year of a living ghost's servitude is enough. But others want a more permanent solution. This can be done by enchanting objects. Weaker enchantments are all that is needed to turn the spirits of others into living corpses, and they work quite well. The only part you can't do that way is the actual summoning of the ghost, which requires a ritual. Well, and you need a corpse. It is left as an exercise for the viewer to decide how to go about getting a corpse, a skull or whatever other human body parts you need.

But suppose you want to turn yourself into a living corpse, perhaps seeking immortality? Well, this isn't going to be easy. You will need a truly powerful artifact made - the example given is a magical tome made from human skull and skin, within which souls can be kept and empowered. This is the sort of stuff you'll be making, necromancer. Of course, it's hard to summon your own ghost, because you're not dead. The easiest method is to have a friend who'll do all this for you once you die. But most necromancers have trouble with that part, the whole 'friends' business gets tricky when your primary work involves stealing corpses and animating zombies. There is another option, though: ritual suicide. Manipulating the soul is impossible, but capturing the spirit is not. You need to kill yourself and trap your departing spirit so it can't escape. Your soul will end up gone forever, off to wherever it is meant to go, but the soul and spirit are seperate once you die.

Essentially, you are going to ritually kill yourself within a spirit ward, trapping your spirit there, and triggering the pile of magic items that are going to create your living corpse. But, well, there are some problems. First, not all deaths actually produce a spirit - sometimes it jsut vanishes. Second, your spirit may not actually end up having a mind, so that...could be problematic. But hey, you can manage it, right? There will, of course, be downsides. But hey, let's assume you manage it. You're a living corpse now.

What's it like? Well, you no longer need to eat, sleep or breathe. You don't age. You are immune to Warping and Twilight. You will exist as long as the magic holding you together does. You do not suffer much from disease, and you cannot be killed by damage. You need to be hacked to bits to be stopped - and even that can be repaired, if the magic lasts. Disease can still hurt you, but it can't kill you and you don't feel pain. It can't even touch your mind. Just your body.

Donwsides...well, first and foremost: you're going to lose some of your memory. Ghosts never have perfect memories, though the more potent ghosts are close. Second: you must protect the vessel within which your soul is stored - the organ, item or other thing that keeps your spirit there. If it's your entire body, you are one unlucky lich - you will want to avoid damage of all kinds. If your vessel is destroyed, you are just a ghost. Ghosts lack much in the way of physical abilities. Oh, and you have to protect the magic items that are powering all these spells. Once they're gone, so is the magic. So you need to keep those safe, too. And you're vulnerable to Perdo Vim spels that will strip you of your ghostly power. You, as a ghost, can be warded against and controlled, too.

Oh, right, and you're going to lose most of your magic. Your Familiar will be unbound, assuming it somehow survived your death. And it will inherently hate you. Oh, and you can't do magic any more and no longer have the Gift. All you have are your ghost powers, which often mimic the spells you favored in ife. You don't have to rot, at least, though if your corpse isn't being preserved by magic, it will. Oh, and you still suffer the social effects of the Gift. Oh, and your personality is getting rewritten a bit - ghosts run on obsession. You are no longer a full person, and in truth you are going to have only one driving personality trait - whichever as most prominent in life.

But hey, that's the price of immortality, right?

Next time: The Magic Zoo

Menagerie of Magical Beasts

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Hermetic Projects

The people of Europe, both in Ars Magica and the medieval past, adored animals. Menageries were kept by the rich and powerful as a show of their power. A magus might well want a Menagerie of Magical Beasts , mundane ones being no satisfaction to a Hermetic. After all, even a leopard or lion is not impressive next to a magical beast. And maybe you want one for mercantile resons - capturing and breeding useful animals. Everyone needs magic beasts, for vis or Familiars or other purposes. But that doesn't make a menagerie easy to make. You need to build one, find a way to feed and contain the creatures within, tame and train them if you plan to sell them, and if you want their line to continue, you need to breed them. And, of course, deal with any legal or personal obstacles to all this. And you need to capture the beasts, too. And you can't do it alone - the place will need staff.

One step at a time, though. We need to find somewhere to build it. Only the smallest menagerie will fit inside your sanctum - any ambition at all will require a larger place. Plus, there tend not to be that many magical beasts in walking distance to capture. So you will have to hunt in distant lands, as well. You probably want a Magic aura to build the place in, since magical beasts survive best in auras, and outside it they may well fade away. Some beasts are potent enough to need truly strong auras, too. Good news: such places at least tend to have magical beasts in them. You're going to be out hunting for these creatures a lot, though...well, bestiaries are at best going to give you rare places, and magical auras are hotly contested. Weak auras are more common, but potent ones...well, you will probably have to fight over them, or at least play politics.

So, we've found our spot. It needs to be a big spot - critters need their space, and you need space to change the area to resemble their habitat. Hermetic magic, at least, is extremely good at landscaping and rebuilding areas. You will want to be careful not to damage the local tethers, however, which create the magical aura. And now that you have a place, you need to build the menagerie. You're gonna need granaries for feed, aviaries for birds or apiaries for bees. Cisterns for aquatic beasts. Barns, if you plan to breed the things, as each breed will need a barn with seperate pastures for males, females and young, and paddocks for birthing. You need pens for the curiosities of a menagerieand viewing areas for visitors, plus places for the staff. And you will need staff. Fresh air and water is needed, protecting from the elements and unwanted visitors, pens will need muckin gout and so on. Plus, you may well want the place to look amazing so you can show off. That's expensive. And if you plan to study while there, you're going to need a lab there, too.

You may end up needing financial backers; this can get expensive. It is left as an exercise for the viewer to make the deals needed to fund the menagerie, but generally it will require services or access to the place for study. Even without backers, however, you are going to need to find livestock. The vast majority of magical beasts are Beasts of Virtue, creatures that are Platonic exemplars of their mundane kind to such an extent that they gain magical powers. Such creatures are often from mundane lines, much as magi often have mundane parents, and magi can no more just create a Beast of Virtue than they can give the Gift. Some Beasts of Virtue appear immortal, while others do not. It's strange. Other creatures are Beasts of Legend - dragons, griffons, phoenixes and so on, as well as the magical lineages of cats and the talking birds of Nephelococcygia. If an animal is magical but not a Beast of Virtue, it is a Beast of Legend by default. The last and strangest kind of magical beast is the Transformed Animal, which actually lacks magical powers. Such creatures cannot reproduce themselves, and are likely to be only kept as curiosities or training for staff, as they are lesser creatures.

So, where do you find these? Well, they often travel. Searching for magical regiones and auras is a good start, but that means hunting rumors and legends. Bestiaries may prove a good place to start, but they often provide only large areas. Flight is helpful for searching, but is often less useful in dense woods or marshlands. Swimming and breathing underwater will be vital to capture aquatic beasts. It is also helpful if you can manage to draw the beast to you, perhaps with its favorite food as bait. And you will probably want a way to detect magic in beasts, as Beasts of Virtue often appear to be normal animals at first. The lazy may also create magical beasts using ritual magic, but you will need a new spell to make a male if the first made a female, or vice versa, and breeding can often be difficult. Such creatures will often be lacking in power, too, for their magic powers rely entirely on the caster's ability to grant them.

Once you've found your beasts, you'll need to capture them. Snares are preferred for small animals, but they may well chew their way out. Lassos are often used after exhausting larger beasts. Fishes can be caught in traps or nets, and birds are usually captured before they are old enough to fly. But magical beasts can make all tis more difficult, especially the birds. At least magic can help you immobilize critters. And then you must transport and contain them. Spells to shrink, immobilize or teleport creatures will all prove very helpful. Oh, and the creatures will need food. Cows - mundane cows - cean eat 30 pounds of grass a day, and a normal wolf can eat 20 pounds of meat in a single meal. Magical beasts will need to have food, too - food kept readily available, with supply lines that do not run out. Of course, many beasts will not starve, but they may become prone to violence or escape if not fed, and many will not reproduce. Your workers are going to spend most of their time feeding the livestock, too. Some creatures require rare foods, as well - griffins eat gold, while the six-legged antelope of Siberia requires bark from the sacred birch, and rocs eat an entire elephant once a month. You need to keep them supplied. And you will need ways to deal with sick or wounded animals, though again magic will be very helpful here. Indeed, magic can even return animals to life, so long as they didn't die of old age. Very handy. However, to resurrect a magical creature is much harder than a mundane one. Which isn't easy in the first place.

And how do you plan to force the creatures to reproduce? They'll do it naturally in the wild, but captive beasts are often harder to convince. There are texts by a few Greek and Roman authors on animal breeding, but they are by and large lost in the present day, save for books on horses or dogs. Other breeding programs mostly don't exist. Animal breeding and the biology involved is somewhat understood, at least, though the exact mechanics of the internals of the female are something of a mystery, as is what ensures conception. Breeders often speculate that such failures are, as in humans, caused by tempoerature or temperament. And some animals simply generate - worms. Worms just kind of appear when the situation is correct. (Most insects are worms, as are frogs, mice and small fish.)

Now, getting a magical beast to reproduce depends on its nature. Lions, for example, are often reluctant to breed and will do so only rarely. A magus might use control of the weather and animal minds to speed things up, encouraging the circumstances needed to breed. Selective breeding and crossbreeding may also well be used to tailor lines of magical creatures, though such a thingis completely unresearched at present and would prove a new and intriguing area of inquiry. Spells also exist to help with the birthingof beasts, which is quite handy. That can be very tough on the female, after all.

Now, the main thing you will need, besides study to help tame these critters, is staff. You need a lot of them. Beaters, feeders, handlers and herders. And each will need an overseer. Livestock is a specialized field at that, and most trainers know only one breed of animal. Very few could handle any breed, especially in a magical menagerie. You are going to need quite a lot of staff to help you out, especially if you have more diverse breeds.

But hey, once the place is up and running, you can get some good use out of it. Magical beasts often contain organs that are great when harvested for magic items. And of course it is a thrilling visit to see these beasts, and many will seek to purchase individual beasts for use as Familiars or other experiments. Sure, your foes will probably try to interfere to piss you off, but that's the price of all success.

The End!

Choose: Choices are: the True Lineage Houses of Hermes and their secrets (Houses of Hermes: True Lineages), Mystery Cults (The Mysteries, Revised Edition), the Mystery Cult Houses (Houses of Hermes: Mystery Cults), more depth on Covenants (Covenants), the lost magic of the past (Ancient Magic), the Societates Houses (Houses of Hermes: Societates), France (Lion and Lily: The Normandy Tribunal), academic life (Art and Academe), the realms of magic and magical beings (Realms of Power: Magic), the Faeries (Realms of Power: Faerie), nobility (Lords of Men), the Church (The Church), Germany (Guardians of the Forests: The Rhine Tribunal) or Greece (Sundered Eagle: The Theban Tribunal).

Byzantine Empire

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Sundered Eagle won the coinflip.

Ars Magica 5th Edition: The Sundered Eagle: The Theban Tribunal

Sundered Eagle is pretty much the sourcebook for the Byzantine Empire. Before 1204, Greece and the rest of the region were ruled over as they had been for 900 years - by the Rhomanoi, Romans, under the basileus Rhomaion, the Roman Emperor. 'Byzantine' is anachronistic for the time. In any case, in 1204, the place was sacked by crusaders, known to the natives as the Frankish. (The Muslims, too, refer to them this way, as i-Franj.) The Crusaders purged the upper classes and instituted their own government, the Latin Empire. Those who survived fled to exile, and the most significant groups of leaders-in-exile are the Empires of Nicea, Epiros and distant Trebizond. The northern provinces have won independence from the Latin Empire, forming the Empire of Bulgaria. Now, the native Greeks and foreign Franks struggle for control.

Romaic Greek is the language of the area, and even most magi use it over Latin, casting spells in classical Greek. Many people of exotic nations live in the area - the Egyptians, Seljuks and Persians can all be found, though the native Greeks are the dominant group. In their ancient legends, men started as a golden race, immortal and happy. Following them were the silver race, farmers and matriarchal, who were long-lived but quarrelsome and ignorant. They did not respect the gods but did not make war. Following them were the brazen men, who were grown like fruits on ash trees, and fought all the time, eating flesh as much as bread. The fourth race was also of brass, but nobler and more generous. They bore the blood of gods and were the heroes of legend. The current race of man is, the Greeks say, made of iron, unworthy children of the fourth race. They have heroism but no nobility. They are daring, crafty, foolish and rash, but they have few redeeming qualities.

The rulers of Constantinople name the period between 1685 BC and 1191 BC the Heroic Age, the time of the Greek myths. They claim it is concurrent with the ancient Biblical period. In 1191, the Trojan War began, according to Herodotus. The fall of Troy is the source of the Greek hatred for Persia, for the Persians always considered the area theirs and did not appreciate the Greek invasion. Thus began the Persian Wars, as the Greek city-states were founded. These wars truly began in the end of the 6th century BC, when Darius I of Persia invaded Thrace and conquered it in 513 BC. When the Ionian states rebelled against him, Athens and Eretria sent aid to them, and war became inevitable. The Persians took Eretria through deception and treachery, then went on to fight Athens. The clash at Marathon was a Greek victory, despite being vastly outnumbered, and only 192 Greeks died compared to 6400 Persians. Darius' son Xerxes attacked Greece again in 480, taking Thessaly, Delphi and Argos. This time, Sparta was the one that defended, leading the first Panhellenic Congress to war. The Spartans' defeat at Thermopylae delayed the Persians long enough to save the Greek fleet at Artemisium, and eventually the Persian fleet was defeated at Salamis, one of the most famous naval battles of all time. Xerxes fled back to Asia Minor, leaving only 40,000 men under his General Mardonius to try the war again the next year. In 479, Mardonius marched south and ravaged Attica, then occupied Athens. When the Spartans came to fight, Mardonius withdrew from Attica to Boeotia, to better use his cavalry on the plains. The Greek victory at Plataea was the greatest land battle they ever fought, driving the Persians from Greece forever.

Naturally, the Greeks felt superior to foreign barbarians after this, and they formed the Delian League to protect against Persia and get vengeance. However, between 431 and 404, Athens and Sparta went to war with each other, due to massive suspicion of the Athenians, who had suppressed several rebellions and moved the Delian League's treasury to Athens and, allegedly, spent it. The Spartans were jealous and fearful of Athenian power, and they launched an attack. The war paused in 422 when both war-leaders died at the Battle of Amphipolos. However, Athenian ambition was great, and they launched an attack against Syracuse in Sicily, which was disastrous. The Spartans cut them off from their farms and mines in Attica, and rebellion destroyed their grain supply. In Athens, an oligarchic rebellion overthrew the government, and an unexpected alliance between the Spartan general Lysander and Cyrus of Persia destroyed Athenian power in 404, when they surrendered unconditionally. The chaos of the next fifty years left Greece vulnerable.

Specifically, vulnerable to the Macedonian King Philip II. The Macedonians were former Persian vassals who had avoided involvement in the Pelopennesian Wars. Philip seized several Athenian vassals and attacked Thrace and the Chalcidian League. Athens accepted the Peace of Philocrates, confirming Philip's control of central Greece, and Philip summoned a Panhellenic Congress in Corinth in 338 to look to invasion of Persia. Soon after the war began, however, he was murdered. His son Alexander took control. Well, his "son".

You see, the romances of the 13th century paint Alexander as a larger-than-life figure. He was not tall, but immensely strong, noble and brave, though violent and oversexed. He was not Philip's son, but the child of the Egyptian sorcerer-king Nectanabus, who trained his son in sorcery until Alexander learned the truth of his parentage. At that point, Alexander killed his true father in a fit of rage and was taught instead by Aristotle. Alexander was 19 when he became king, and he pushed the invasion of Persia greatly. In 338, he led a massive army into Persia, conquering it and defeating Darius III himself, then capturing Tyre and Egypt in 331 as he chased Darius into Mesopotamia and captured Bablyon, Susa and Persepolis. Darius died in Media and Alexander took his crown. Over three years, he would head eastward, exploring the world's bounds by heading into the sea in a glass ball, flying in a chariot pulled by griffins and being refused entry into Heaven before discovering the wellspring of life, where he slew the dragon that guarded it and sent his sister to bring him a drink. However, she spilled it and so Alexander cursed her to be the half-fish Gorgona, now an immense mermaid that haunts the Black Sea.

Alexander had three wives, two mistresses, more lovers than anyone can account for (both male and female), but only two children. Both died before adulthood. It is said that in 330 BC, the Queen of the Amazons herself came to bear his child, but what happened to the child is a mystery. Alexander's conquest was ended only by his army's rebellion, unwilling to go further. He returned home, executing rebel governors and dealing with assassins. He married a daughter of Darius III, and in 324 he died of fever from a wound suffered in India. Forty years of war between his generals would follow, splitting his empire into three kingdoms: Macedonia, Ptolemaic Egypt and the Seleucid Empire. Alexandria of Egypt and Antioch of Syria became the centers of Hellenist culture rather than Greece itself, and Macedonia continued to rule over Greece, Thrace and Anatolia, though it would not be until the reign of King Antigonus II Gonatus (284-239 BC) that Greece's fortunes would reverse and rise. Athens rose to preeminence again, despite the Macedonian garrison in it, and gained enough wealth to buy its freedom. Rhodes rose in power as well, expelling the Macedonians by force.

This was the time of the Leagues, confederacies of cities. In the past, leagues were dominated by one city, but now, they were equal partners. The Achaean League arose in the south, and the Aetolian League in the north. They were ruled by an assembly open to all male citizens, and the Boeotian League became a third power. Athens, Euboea, Elis, Messenia and Sparta remained independent. The Aetolians rebelled against Macedonia, but they were crushed and Athens was invaded. Thus ended its independence. Sparta remained hostile to the Achaean League, invading in 227, but the Achaeans allied with the Macedonians and crushed them five years later.

This is when Rome starts to become important. Hannibal had been an ally of Macedonia, which led to Roman intervention. In 205, the Romans signed the PEace of Phoenice, allowing coexistence with the Greeks, but the Romans conflicted with the Macedonians several times, defeating them and the Seleucids whenever conflict came up and becoming the leading power of the Mediterranean. In 168, Macedonia was conquered, and Greece itself followed in 146, with the Aegean isles falling in 133. Several cities, including Athens, rebelled in 88 and were crushed. The Roman rule led to peace, however, for 250 years. However, in 284 AD, when Diocletian became emperor, it was clear that no one could hold the Empire together, so he divided it into four prefectures, adopting a joint Emperor to rule alongside him, with two subordinates. The eastern empire took up most of Greece, Crete, Thrace, Asia Minor, Judea and Egypt. Power pushed ever east, and Constantine established a new capital in the Christian city of Byzantium, renamed Constantinople in 330 AD.

Next time: Constantine

Fall of the Byzantines

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

I'm sorry for all this long history stuff - we need it to set the scene. The Byzantine Empire and its predecessors left huge impacts on the area.

Ars Magica 5th Edition: The Sundered Eagle: The Theban Tribunal

Emperor Constantine ended the persecution of Christians, declaring an Edict of Toleration of Faiths, not least because his mother, Saint Helena, was a devout Christian. Despite that, it was not her influence but the miraculous appearance of sign in the sky before the Battle of Milvian Bridge that led Constantine to accept Christ. He called the first Council of Nicaea in 325, establishing the first true doctrine of the Church and begining the tradition of great Oecumenical Councils, defining correct belief. Constantine had been a member of the cult of Sol Invictus, but he was baptised on his deathbed. His new capital in the city of Byzantium was renamed Nova Roma Constantinopolis, and after his death it became known as Constantinople.

From 361 to 363, the city was briefly ruled by Emperor Julian the Apostate, returning it to paganism, but God allowed the Huns, Goths and other barbarians to help destabilize the Roman Empire as a result. In 378, the Eastern Empire's army was nearly annihilated, and the Goths reached Constantinople. They occupied it until 400, when an elderly beggar woman insulted a Goth and, when he struck her, the locals began open rebellion, driving the Goths out in a great riot. They never returned.

While the Western Empire collapsed, the Eastern Empire maintained Roman tradition. One of the greatest, if not the greatest, Byzantine emperors was Justinian, who enacted massive legal reform. He is said to have been deeply pious but heretical until the personal intervention of Pope Agapetus I. He married a lowborn dancer named Theodora in great scandal, but she proved an excellent empress. He also expanded the Eastern Empire throughout southern Italy. His generals Narses and Belisarius were some of the best in history, and it was Justinian who built the Hagia Sophia. However, due to his autocratic nature, he proved unpopular in life, especially due to his efficient taxation. In 532, a riot set fire to much of Constantinople, and Justinian would have fled but for Theodora, who would not leave. He ended the riot in a massacre of 30,000 people, and their ghosts still haunt the city. In the latter years, he stole the secret of silk from the east, and silk has been made in Constantinople, Thebes and Thessaloniki ever since.

Let's see, moving on to highlights...in 626, Persia invaded the Empire, despite Emperor Heraclius' attempts at peace, but Heraclius defeated them at Nineveh, destroying many Zoroastrian temples and retrieving the True Cross. The Persians never again troubled the Empire, thanks to their conquest by the Islamic Arabs. The Muslims would become the new great threat. They besieged Constantinople twice, and there was continuous war at the edges of empire, until the border was established south of the Anatolian mountains and the conflict became one of diplomacy, money and occasional raids. Mosques now exist in Constantinople, at first for the benefit of prisoners and now for merchants.

The conflict with Islam led to two major developments. Firstly, the empire was divided into themes, military provinces with their own standing armies. Secondly, a huge theological controversy began between the Iconoclasts and Iconodulists. The emperors favored Iconoclasm, and the veneration of icons was suppressed. However, ultimately, the pro-icon Iconodulists triumphed under Empress Irene in the late 700s. In 800, the Byzantines began aggressive attempts to retake Greece from the Slavonic tribes, partially in order to find land routes west now that Arab pirates infested the seas. Since 680, however, the local situation had changed. A new Turkic people, the Bulgars, had created a successful Balkan state. Despite their conversion to Christianity thanks to the monks Cyril and Methodius in 864, the Byzantines and the Bulgarian Empire would fight for control of the Balkans throughout the 9th century. (In no small part because House Tremere supported the Bulgars.)

In the 10th century, the imperial military grew stronger with the capture of Antioch and Tarsus from the Muslims. By 1019, the conquest of Bulgaria was complete. Crete and Cyprus were retaken from pirates, and Greece was freed from Slavonic control, while the Empire held southern Italy up to the Papal States. They lost Sicily to Muslims in 902, but that was their only defeat. In 971, the Rus invaded Bulgaria and approached Constantinople. 12 charges failed to break the Rus, but the 13th charge, led personally by Emperor Ioannes I, broke them and sent them fleeing. The Macedonian Dynasty ruled from 867 to 1056, overseeing the military and cultural resurgence and introducing a form of peasant militia to support their kataphraktoi cavalry. Emperor Basil II the Bulgar-Slayer was their greatest military figure, ruling from 976 to 1025 and conqeuring Bulgaria. He oversaw the conversion of the Rus to Christianity, though he had to marry his sister Anna to Vladimir of Kiev to do it, in exchange for 6000 Rus mercenaries. (It was illegal to marry her out of the empire, but he did it anyway.) Basil's ruthlessness was terrible to behold, and perhaps why God allowed him to die heirless.

Let's see...moving on to the final Empresses of the Macedonian Dynasty, we get the arrival of the Seljuks. They were Muslims, and in 1071, they fought Emperor Romanos Diogenes at Manzikert, defeating and capturing the Emperor via the betrayal of the reserve commander, Andronikos Doukas, who sought vengeance on the Emperor for charming his way into the ruling Doukas family after almost being executed for treason. The Seljuk leader Alp Arslan released Romanos, however. A week later, Doukas captured and blinded the Emperor, who died of infection later, and the peace between Alp and Romanos was repudiated. The Seljuks were outraged, conquering their way westward and taking the Anatolian Plateau and its rich farmland from the empire.

In the ensuing power struggles, Alexius Komnenos came out with the throne, though surrounded by enemies. Italy and Sicily fell to Norman invasion, ending Byzantine power in Italy in the 1080s. The Sicilians would have conquered Greece were it not for rebellion at home, and they still took Macedonia and Thessaly before plague ended their advance. In 1091, the Pecheneg nomads arrived, and the Byzantines allied with the Cumans to fight them, defeating them utterly. From that time on, both Cuman and Pecheneg cavalry have been used in Byzantine armies. In the meantime, Pope Urban took the Emperor's cries for aid seriously, and in 1091, the First Crusade was begun. Emperor Alexius was not happy - he wanted mercenaries, not conquering warlords who would not accept his rule. Despite his best efforts, the Crusaders despoiled the countryside, clashing with Byzantine troops. When they arrived in Constantinople, Alexius refused them transport until they swore to restore his former territories to him, which the crusader lords refused until his siege of their camp forced their grudging acceptance.

In any case, only Raymond of Toulouse kept his promise, and many crusaders sacked Greek cities. Relations between East and West fell sharply, with the West blaming the failures of the First Crusade on Byzantine effeminacy, duplicity and treachery, believing the Byzantines had betrayed them. In the meantime, the rise of the Italian city-states as Alexius was busy fighting forced him to grant many trade concessions in 1111, and Greek merchants remain greatly disabled compared to the Italians. Despite all this, Alexius Komnenos' son Ioannes II succeeded him. Ioannes was deeply pious and very ugly and dark-skinned, so he was called Ioannes the Beautiful, or Ioannes the Moor. He revoked VEnetian merchant rights...until the Venetian fleet seized many of his islands, and he was forced to give them back. Skipping ahead to 1171, the next emperor, Manuel I Komnenos, went to war with Venice, and this time the Venetian fleet fell to plague, and peace was reached. Then, war with Sicily, and the Venetians, despite being nominal allies, were extremely contemptuous of the Empire. The plans to invade Sicily and Venice in response to their attacks fell through due to a Serbian rebellion, and a later plan was defeated by Papal forces.

Let's see...intrigue, coups and the rise of the cruel Andronikos I, the Tyrant. Under his rule, a mob slaughtered every Westerner they found, even women, children and the sick. More war with sicily in 1185, in which the Sicilian army sacks Thessaloniki and desecrates many Byzantine churches. Andronikos imprisons and executes many political foes, and a mob rebels against him. His soldiers refuse to fire on the mob and he is seized, starved, has an eye burnt out and is then laden in chains and sent out to the mob backwards on a donkey. They torture him to death, and his ghost still haunts the city. The palaces are pillaged by the mob. The uprising sweeps Isaac II Angelos into power, and the fury of the mob comes to Thessaloniki during peace negotiations, destroying the Sicilian army. The invaders flee and are massacred. The next set of Crusaders despoils the land again, and almost take Constantinople before Isaac gives them safe passage. In 1195, Isaac is overthrown by a coup and blinded by his brother Alexius III. Alexius manages, though it seems impossible, to be even worse at ruling. He sends tribute to the Holy Roman Empire and loses control of much of his own.

After decades of catastrophe, the Fourth Crusade comes through in 1202. They had been told to recover Jerusalem, but their true aim was Damietta, in Egypt, their main obstacle in the road to the Holy Land. The Crusaders make a deal with the Venetians for transport, but renege due to lack of funds. Eventually, after months of hunger and disease, a compromise is reached, and the Crusaders, under Venetian orders, take the rebellious city of Zara. Prince Alexius, son of the deposed Isaac II, approaches them seeking allies against Emperor Alexius III. He offers them money and support if they will take Constantinople and place him on the throne. Little fighting is expected, and the deal is taken. In 1203, the Crusaders besiege the city, receiving little joy at the display of Prince Alexius. After a month, the Emperor flees by night, and the Crusaders enter the city, proclaiming the prince Emperor Alexius IV. He rules alongside his blinded father.

The new rulers prove unpopular as they tax the people to pay off the Crusaders. They cannot keep the promises Alexius made at Zara, and in August, a gang of Crusaders attack a mosque outside the walls. A mob forms to defend it, and the Crusaders start a fire, which spreads to the entire city. It burns out of control for three days, destroying 440 acres of Constantinople. In 1220, this remains a field of ash. The Venetian Doge Dandolo realizes this situation is impossible and suggests the Crusaders just take the damn city. They daly, however, and in August 1204, the mob gathers in the Hagia Sophia and another Alexius, known as Murzuphlos, conducts another coup, murdering Isaac and Alexius IV. He is crowned Alexius V and immediately prepares to fight the Crusaders.

A new siege begins, and while the fighting is very fierce indeed, the battle ends when Alexius V runs off to exile. The people place Constantine Lascaris on the throne, but the city is indefensible and he flees, leaving it to the Crusaders. For three days, the city is brutally sacked and looted in a display of shocking violence, torching even holy artifacts and nunneries. The ghosts of those slain in the Sack still haunt the streets.

The Crusaders and Venetians finally finish up their deal, and a new Latin Emperor is appointed: Baldwin IX, Count of Flanders, now Emperor Baldwin I, while his rival Boniface of Montferrat is off to conquer his own kingdom in Thessaloniki. The Byzantine leaders flee to Arta, where they set up the Empire of Epiros, and another group heads to Nicaea, starting another Byzantine successor state. Civil war almost erupts between Boniface and Baldwin, but the Venetian Doge prevents it and Baldwin allows Boniface to take Thessaloniki, where he is welcomed by the local Greeks due to his collateral relation to the Byzantine emperors. Baldwin attempts to pacify the empire and nearly captures Nicaea, but his attempts to bring feudalism to Greece cause a rebellion supported by the Bulgarian Tsar Karolyan, who ambushes Baldwin at Adrianople and captures him. His fate is unknown, but he probably died in captivity, though rumor has it he has been seen in Flanders, or that House Tremere knows more than they let on about him. Still, the Theban Tribunal refuses to pursue that issue.

Baldwin is succeeded by his brother Henry in 1205, but the Latin Empire is now a thin strip of territory around Constantinople due to the Nicaeans and the Bulgarians. Henry marries Boniface's daughter Agnes, but is cut off from his ally by the Greek rebels and the Bulgarians until 1207. Agnes dies in 1207, as Henry seeks peace with the Bulgarians, and Henry marries Maria, Karolyan's daughter and step-daughter of the current Tsar Boril. She is believed to have poisoned Henry and did flee the court following Henry's death in 1216, though others blame Count Oberto of Thessaloniki. Maria's whereabouts are unknown, and dark rumor claims she was an evil witch of the Daughters of Erichtho. The crusaders elect Peter II of Courtenay to replace Henry. Peters sets off, rather unwillingly, in 1217, to be crowned by the Pope, but is seized by the ruler of Epiros, Theodore Komnenos Doukas and imprisoned. He probably dies, though no body or grave is found. His wife Yolanda of Flanders, Henry's sister, reaches the city in 1217 and rules as regent, reaching peace with Bulgaria and Nicaea, marrying her daughter Maria to Theodore Lascaris, the Nicene emperor.

When Yolanda dies suddenly in 1219, the throne is offered to her son Philip of Namur, who declines it. His brother Robert of Courtenay takes the title and will be crowned Emperor Robert when he arrives in 1221. As of right now, the Latin Empire is leaderless. The Empire of Nicaea has renewed hostilities after Yolanda's death, and prospects are not good.

Next time: The Order in Greece.

Hermetic History

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Mimir posted:

Was Justinian a demon/ghost in Mythic Europe, like Procopius thought?

Sadly, this never gets mentioned. But hey, there's no reason it couldn't be the case...though Ars Magica tends to come down on the side of Justinian being a pretty okay guy who was just widely disliked in his own time.

Ars Magica 5th Edition: The Sundered Eagle: The Theban Tribunal

All right. Hermetic history. It should be understood that the wizards of Greece have a long history - Greece is rich in vis and magical beings, and the East never suffered the loss of literary knowledge that the West did. The Greek wizards remained literate longer, and their language did not splinter as the Western Empire's did. They have a history of leagues, temporary groups of wizards formed to meet goals. They tended not to meet much, finding it helped them succeed if they worked individually and communicated by letter. Before the Order was founded, the wizard Prokopios attempted to unite the wizards of Greece, but lacking Hermetic theory and the Parma Magica, even his gentle Gift was not enough to unite the wizards. He did, however, come up with the typikon, based on the charters of Orthodox monasteries, which regulated how wizards acted and reached decisions. He claimed it was written by the ghost of Aristotle. The Typikon of Propokios became the charter of the pre-Hermetic leagues, thought it failed to unite them as a Panhellenic Congress. When the Order of Hermes came to Greece, the Typikon was used in the foundations of the Theban Tribunal's laws. The most notable league was the League of Iconophiles, who formed to protect the religious icons from the Byzantine emperors who would destroy them. Though they declined Trianoma's invitation, they would eventually become House Jerbiton.

The expansion of the Order into Byzantine territory had little real impact; it was present, largely as House Jerbiton, only in cosmopolitan areas such as Constantinople, Thessalonica and Adrianople, since the countryside was still ruled by fairies, gods, vampires and Infernalists, plus superstitious peasants. The magi preferred to be where books and learning were found, and House Jerbiton was happy to coexist with the Gifted and unGifted magicians of Greece, thanks to centuries of doing so and also not being very aggressive. Few other Houses bothered with the area, and the local traditions had no real desire to join the Order, as they distrusted Westerners, especially Latins.

However, in 775, House Tremere invaded Greece, killing wizards and seizing vis and magic items. None of those slain were of the Order, so it broke no Hermetic Oaths, but the response was swift. The wizards formed the Theban League to protect themselves, and House Jerbiton and House Bonisagus once more extended their invitations. Many joined the Order to gain protection from Tremere, and this, more than their military reprisals, ended the conflict. Tremere magi might slay outsiders, but not fellow Order magi. A century later, though, Tremere once more threatened Greece...and, indeed, the entire Order. The Theban magi intercepted Tremere's messages, revealing his plans to take over the Order and that his lieutenants would meet in the secret Bulgarian covenant Dorostolon. A group of Theban magi entered the covenant and broke the minds of Tremere's lieutenants. None officially claimed responsibility, but many believe that the Sundering, as it is known, was performed by undoing the bindings holding Typhon and forming a pact with the Titan, directing the creature at Dorostolon. Once Typhon dealt with the threat, it was re-imprisoned, and Tremere himself died shortly after.

The Theban Tribunal officially formed in 865, at the Sixth Grand Tribunal, naming itself for the Theban League that had formed in response to House Tremere. Its territory is from the Ionian to the Black Sea, extending from Bulgaria to Anatolia. The fact that it held the domus magna of House Tremere but was not named for them is a show of the distrust for Tremere at the time. However, the formation of the Bulgarian Empire and the gradual recovery of House Tremere from its self-imposed isolation and expansion convinced the ninth Grand Tribunal in 964 that the Theban Tribunal was too large and unwieldy, splitting off the Transylvanian Tribunal in the north. The Theban Tribunal's bounds have been constant ever since.

The Thebans stayed out of the Schism War, though a few Greek magi did go to fight against the druids. In 1014, as the war trailed off, the Byzantines invaded Bulgaria. House Tremere swears that Theban magi assisted the Emperor, and while it has not been proven, it is true that some magi, especially Jerbitons with the Gentle Gift, had close connections with the Imperial family and the rulers of the Byzantine Empire. House Tremere responded in 1185, supporting the Bulgarian rebellion with materials and advice. This led to some Greek magi declaring their support for the Byzantime emperor and forming the League of Advisors in Constantinople to take open part in the Byzantine court. They received no money from this and claimed to only offer advice, treading the line between the permitted role of advisor and the forbidden role of court wizard. With the loss of the Anatolian plateau to the Turks in 1071, Byzantine magi fled Asia Minor and have not since returned.

Many Theban magi, it should be noted, avoided the entire League of Advisors thing. Some didn't even pay attention until 1204, when Constinople fell. All three covenants based there were destroyed - Thermakopolis had only one survivor, who is now in self-imposed exile, Moero's Garden relocated to Nicaea and Xylinites closed its walls to outsiders. Houses Tremere and Jerbiton have both been blamed, and the League of Advisors disbanded with the destruction of Thermakopolis, which held many of its members. Though the Theban Tribunal did not convict the League of Advisors of breaking the Hermetic Oath, House Tremere has appealed to have the two survivors of the League tried at the Grand Tribunal in 1228. Should the appeal succeed, it could have great consequences for the autonomy of Tribunals in general and the Theban Tribunal in particular. Some of the Frankish magi who came with the Crusaders have already rebelled against the policies of the Theban Tribunal, and the Tribunal's gathering in 1221 will surely be an interesting one.

Theban magi have a tendency to form leagues, alliances of likeminded magi devoted to a goal. There are several active Leagues right now, but most lack the numbers to do much quickly or privately. Each will need aid or more members, and each has a theoretically altruistic goal designed to continue the prosperity and hegemony of the Order in Greece. Each, however, has a different idea of how to do it. A few example leagues are presented.

The League of Constantine hopes to return the Byzantine Empire to power with a legitimate Greek emperor and an Orthodox church. The League is made entirely of Jerbiton magi, though they'd take others. All of its members currently have apprentices nearing the age of graduation, and these apprentices are overall more martial and violent than their parentes. These apprentices are the hope of the league, which is currently based around the Nicaean covenant of Moero's Garden. More on them later.

The Children of Olympos are a small, eccentric band of magi who believe that the Tribunal would be best off as servants of the gods of old. They are led by the charismatic Lucian the Scholar of Merenita, and hold that supporting the Divine is folly, as is the Infernal, but a closer tie to the Faerie gods would be great, for the Faeries are intrinsically tied to the fates of man. The Greek gods, in particular, outlasted all others and so are worthy allies. More on these guys later, too.

The League of the Vigilant are a very recent League. Most magi, you see, are aware that Infernal forces were active in both sides of the recent conflict in Constantinople, and many feel the Order may also be infected. Hydatius of Ingasia and Proximios of Alexandria have come together to lead and fund this league, respectively, and it is still very small. They're just starting to recruit, hunting for magi not native to the Tribunal. Their goal is simple: investigate and hunt down the demons in the Theban Tribunal. Most are wary of them, for such hunts have often grown out of control, but others believe they are needed to prevent corruption. At least Hydatius and Proximios both have glowing reputations.

Last, the League Against Idolatry are those who oppose the pagan remnants of the Order, working actively to remove them. Their main focus is a Hermetic rite called the Ceremony of Propitiation, which they hold to be idolatrous. Currently, the league is largely of two covenants, Oikos tou Elous and Gigas, who occasionally receive support from Artoud of Xylinites. They despise the practice of taking pagan patrons and the maintenance of pagan altars and ritual vis sacrifice. They feel it goes beyond the veneration magical beings might merit and into worship. They are a highly controversial league, prone to angry outbursts, and they oppose ancient traditions of the Tribunal.

Next time: Theban Politics and Customs

The Theban Tribunal

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: The Sundered Eagle: The Theban Tribunal

The Theban Tribunal's polity runs on a twofold system. First, the citizens of the Tribunal hold all executive power, and second, the Council of Magistrates hold all administrative power. In Thebes, a man accused of violating the Code does not gather evidence in his own defense, nor does the accuser gather evidence against him. The magistrates gather all evidence. The citizens then judge whether the accused is innocent or guilty, as in most Tribunals, but punishment is decided by the magistrates, rather than Quaesitores. House Guernicus remain the top legal scholars, but they have little to do with executing the law. This is deliberate - the Thebans prefer rulings that anyone can understand, not just lawyers, and loopholes or technicalities see little use in the Theban Tribunal.

The Tribunal recognizes two kinds of magi: politai and metoikoi. A polites is a citizen, a member of the Order of Hermes who, generally, graduated from apprenticeship in the Theban Tribunal, and who remains in good standing there by maintaining their civic duty. A metoikos is any other Hermetic magus who is in Thebes but is not a citizen of the Tribunal. They're either guests or politai who lost their rights due to lack of civic duty. A metoikos may become polites via decree of citizenship by the Tribunal. The caste exists because the Thebans do not want those who do not contribute to benefit much from their polity. They don't like parasites.

There are sixteen archai, magiestrates - four from each of the four major divisions of the Tribunal, which are entirely geographical. Each arche is chosen at the seven-year Tribunal gatherings by lottery. They elect one of their own as archon, the leader of the council. They are also served by a polemarch, who enforces the law, and a logothete, who oversees the bureaucracy. No citizen may serve two consecutive terms as arche, but other than that there are no restrictions. They largely handle disputes and ceremonial matters. It is not a privilege but a duty, as they have no real expanded rights, merely more responsibility. They do not have the right to vote at Tribunal while serving as archai, and it is the duty of the archon to report on any wrongdoing they may commit. The current archon, until the 1221 Tribunal, is Aiakia of Hedyosmos.

The polemarch is the one that ensures the Tribunal's decisions are carried out, the leader of any Wizard's Marches the Tribunal declares and so on. The archai elect one magus from the entire Tribunal to serve as polemarch, and the polemarch can be but does not need to be an arche. The polemarch is given access to special enchanted items to help in their role, essentially magical handcuffs. There is no limit to the number of times someone can be polemarch, and often the same magus is chosen again and again, though they can decline the job. The current polemarch is Maria Laskarina of Polyaigos, who has served two terms so far.

The logothete is the chief Redcap of the Tribunal, who records all business and oversees all bureaucracy, as well as being the treasurer. Until 1186, the logothete was elected every seven years by the Redcaps of the Theban Tribunal, but now the position is held for life, in order to prevent strain on the bureaucracy. They are elected as normal whenever the old logothete dies, resigns, suffers Final Twilight or fails a vote of no confidence among the Redcaps. The logothete maintains records of tokens and shards, a very important job, and also performs all the normal services that the head of House Mercere would do in a Tribunal. The current logothete, Leontius of Alexandria, has stated that he will be stepping down as of 1221, and there is much speculation on who will replace him.

Tokens and shards are unique to the Theban Tribunal. Tokens are earned by service to the Tribunal; being arche or polemarch, gathering vis for the Tribunal, winning legal cases, making longevity rituals at the request of the logothete, delivering Gifted children to the Tribunal or raising apprentices all earn tokens. Shards are demerits, earned by threatening the unity of the Tribunal; being found guilty of crimes, losing court cases, neglect of arche duties, abuse of apprentices or refusal to surrender Gifted children to the Tribunal all earn shards. A magus with a token can approach a magus with a shard, offering neutralization of the shard in exchange for a service taking no more than a single season and costing the shard-bearing magus only time. If the shard-bearer agrees, a Redcap witnesses the deal and takes both the token and the shard, nulling both out. Shards may also be removed by decree of contrition at the Tribunal. A magus may not neutralize their own shards, nor those of their own covenant.

The official language of magic in the Theban Tribunal is Classical Greek, and they have developed a way to make that work with Hermetic theory as well as Latin. The two languages are both used, which annoys several magi, who do not like needing to learn both to deal with books and study. The Tribunal as a whole owns 50 pawns of vis per year from specified sources, which normal magi may not own or access save to harvest it for the Tribunal. Such vis is used as needed for the Tribunal's purposes or the Ceremony of Propitiation. All covenants in the Tribunal have a supernatural patron, a magical being (usually) or sometimes a saint, fairie or ghost which makes a pact with the covenant to protect it and be protected. All covenants are required to have a patron and must also state their intended purpose when formed and have a suitable charter.

The Ceremony of Propitiation is performed at each Tribunal gathering, originating in ancient Greek cult practices. Altars are erected to each patron, and large amounts of vis are sacrificed to them in a grand ritual celebrating the patrons. The ceremony is not discussed often with outsiders, and most outsiders see it as a horrible waste of vis and disturbingly pagan. The League Against Idolatry boycotts the event and wishes it to be banned. The vis is not, in fact, wasted - rather, it is consumed by the patrons, empowering them and improving their abilities. Still, the League Against Idolatry says, it goes beyond veneration and respect and into outright worship.

All Gifted children are, by tradition, gathered at Tribunal meetings. Any Bonisagus magus or magus with at least one token may select from the children as potential apprentices, offering them tokens in exchange. (Of course, Bonisagus magi get first pick, as the law requires.) All apprentices are interrogated by the Tribunal at each meeting, to ensure they're not mistreated.

Next time: Byzantine customs.

Byzantine Society

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: The Sundered Eagle: The Theban Tribunal

Byzantine social structure is, traditionally, not feudal. It is top-down, of course. The Emperor, or basileus Rhomaion, was originally at the top of the system. Below him were the dynatoi, "powerful ones", essentially a collection of distinguished families. Honors and titles were handed out liberally but tended not to be inherited, and the dynatoi were constantly struggling to maintain position at court, since new honors would change up the webs. The fragments of the dynatoi that survive now take power from their role in imperial service, which is of three branches - the court, the military and the civil authority. The court is largely made of the Emperor's family, a few officials and the senate. Most of the important or advisory positions are held by eunuchs. The senate is a largely ceremonial body made of dynatoi and senior clergy. The military is an elite imperial guard and a series of provincial field armies led by generals, or strategoi. The civil bureaucracy is made of skilled, literate people responsible for administration, records and legal work, largely in the capital, and supported by taxes from the provinces.

The Latin lords, on the other hand, have tried to bolt a feudal framework onto the dynatoi, setting up a standard Western European system of baronies and dukedoms. The imperial court under the Latins is mostly made of the Latin Emperor, some Venetians and the Frankish barons. The bureaucracy remains largely unchanged, and very little has changed for the middle and lower classes, as well - the dynatoi are just rather upset about the feudalism being forced on them. The middle class, or mesoi, are mostly farmers who live in towns and own nearby land. Craftsmen are also mesoi, but are largely in the provincial towns. Below them are the lower classes, the aporoi, who make a subsistence living in rural areas, leasing small farms or orchards. The urban poor largely rely on official, religious or private charity to survive.

Slavery, douleia, was once an important feature of Byzantine society, and slaves remain a fixture of the empire, though uncommon now, largely thanks to the efforts of the Eastern Church. Most slaves are born to slave parents or are foreigners bought from merchants and regulated by law. Prisoners of war were once also enslaved, but that is very rare now. Well-treated slaves in a large household are generally better off than the urban poor - they've got limited property rights, the right to Church sacraments, can marry and may gain their freedom, generally when their owner dies. On the other hand, they are still property and the owner may enforce good behavior with the threat of death. The Church, especially the Western Church, frowns on but does not forbid slavery, and stresses that owners must treat slaves well.

Eunuchs are a unique and major fixture of Byzantine society. Many court positions can only be held by eunuchs, and the most important eunuchs are known as archieunuchs, some of whom have rivalled the Emperor in power. General Narses under Justinian was a eunuch, as was the Patriarch Saint Ignatius. Eunuchs often become monks, though some monasteries forbid them for fear of tempting others. The term 'eunuch' refers to all men who are not sexually active. There is a distinction between the castrati, who have been physically castrated and are forbidden to marry, while the spadones, who are impotent or asexual but not castrated, can marry. In earlier times, only slaves were made eunuchs, but since the 700s, it has become acceptable to willingly be castrated. Many lesser sons of noble families will do so in order to pursue careers in the imperial service or the Church.

Women have, traditionally, not held a high place in Byzantine society. It is a very patriarchal society. However, in rural areas and in the lower classes, women have always worked alongside men, and the Church does provide education and opportunities for women. Women can own property and inherit. Some women have even ruled the entire Empire before. And in the last century, things have started to change for women. Women have been entering businesses or becoming doctors, scholars or apothecaries...even if woman doctors are usually expected only to treat women. In the cloth industry in particular, women are very powerful, though women are still expected to wear veils and obey their husbands. Still, they are a rising voice in the intellectual scene, and the pragmatism brought on by the Empire's decline has opened many doors for them.

Okay, now then, let's talk the Orthodox Church. It is a number of autocephalous churches - you have the Bulgarian Church, the Russian Church, the Greek Church and so on. The patriarch is the senior figure in all Orthodox Churches. The Patriarch of Constantinople is the first bishop of the Orthodox Church, but he has no authority over the patriarchs of other autocephalous Churches, most notably the Bulgarian Church and the Serbian Church, who maintain independence. He is the First Among Equals among the Church patriarchs, and holds the official title of Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch. He alone has the right to convene the Oecumenical Councils and to deal with disputes between bishops. He heads the Greek Orthodox community. The Patriarch is often forced to abdicate by the Emperor, who will 'nominate' a more suitable successor. However, unless abdication happens, the title is for life.

The Patriarch is currently in Nicaea, Manuel I Charitopoulos, and he has a close relationship with the Emperor of Nicaea, Theodore Lascaris. His authority is accepted in Trebizond, Epiros and other Greek-controlled areas, and by the Orthodox of most Latin states. However, there is also the second Patriarch, the Patriarch-in-Exile of Antioch, Dorotheus, who was forced out by the creation of the Latin Patriarch of Antioch in 1095, when the crusaders took the city. The Bulgarian Patriarch now resides in lands the Bulgarians seized from Epiros, as well. After the fall of Constantinople, the Latins appointed a Patriarch, in theory bringing the Orthodox Church into submission to Rome. Some Orthodox clergy have accepted this, but others still look to the Patriarch in Nicaea. The agreement between Venice and the crusaders gives the Venetians right to name the Latin Patriarch, and the first was Thomas Morasini, whom Pope Innocent III grudgingly accepted. He died in 1211, and his successor Gervase was appointed in 1215. Gervase died in 1219, so the role is vacant again, and the Pope has yet to express a preference for a replacement. While the Latin rites have replaced the Orthodox rites in some churches, by and large the locals have remained loyal to the Orthodox Church and actively oppose union with Rome.

The Orthodox recognize two forms of clergy: black and white. White clergy are the priests, and they are expected to marry, unlike Latin priests. The black clergy are the monks, who are celibate. Only black clergy may become bishops, so celibacy is an advantage for the ambitious. Eunuchs may, in theory, hold either position, but as eunuchs are often seen as lascivious and effeminate, they are often excluded from monasteries. All priests and monks must be male, 35 or older, educated and able to recite the entire psalter by heart. Clergy answer to a bishop, who answers to the metropolitan, a senior bishop, and also to the patriarch.

One major feature of Orthodox religion is the icon. They are of two types: eikons, made by pious craftsmen, and acheiropoieta, which spontaneously appear in very strong auras or are given by angels. An icon is a two-dimensional representation of a religious figure, usually a saint or the Virgin Mary, or Jesus himself. The Orthodox tradition prefers not to show Christ on the cross, but rather a Christ triumphant on a throne.

Next time: Superstition, folklore and Greece.

Byzantine Myths/Greece

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: The Sundered Eagle: The Theban Tribunal

Some notable Byzantine superstitions include the alaphroiskiolos , the light-shadowed ones. An alaphroiskiolos is a person born on a Saturday, which gives them supernatural powers according to folklore. Some have second sight, while others can dowse or sense magic. Some have no powers at all. Even these, however, share in one trait: they have special powers over the demonic vrykolakes. Some are also sleepwalkers, known as the parmenoi or 'taken ones', who may be nightwalkers or battle alongside them.

The evil eye, also called phthonos or baskania in Greek and invidia or fascinatos in Latin, is a common belief. It is not usually deliberate, but is caused by the angry gaze of a jealous person, cursing the target with ill luck. The dread of the evil eye is such that compliments are sometimes avoided where they are truly deserved simply to avoid the evil eye, especially if the compliments involve children. Indeed, boys are often dressed in girls' clothes or have soot smeared on their faces to avoid envy. Some folk witches or infernalists can direct the evil eye deliberately, but most instances of it are caused by demons who delight in envy and destruction. A blue glass amulet carved with an eye is a ward against the evil eye if hung in a prominent place or worn, but such amulets are rare and hard to make. You may also temporarily ward against it by making a horned sign with the left hand when complimented.

Lastly, the power of oaths is never forgotten. A man might lie in Byzantine society, but not if a solemn oath is sworn. Oaths are sworn to saints most often, and they are known to punish oathbreakers. And in some areas, especially the islands, it is common to swear by the nearest river. This stems from the Greek Styx, one of the younger Titans, who aided Zeus and the gods in fighting her brethren. She was granted dominion over oaths for this, and as a river spirit, this extends to all rivers. When such an oath is sworn and then broken, the injured party may return to the spot the oath was sworn at and declaim the oathbreaker. Then, especially if the name of Styx was invoked, there is a chance of the river spirits acting to punish the oathbreaker.

Now, interesting things in Greece. The city of Artha is entered via a cursed bridge, made with the help of the Devil. A giant raven watches over it, and any who crosses the bridge is afflicted with greed. If the bird is fought off, the bridge may well fall, for the builder's wife gave her dying curse beneath the bridge, that when birds fall from the sky, so will men fall from the bridge. The island of Corfu is home to the first landing place of Odysseus, where he was given a great ship that could not be sunk and could be steered by a thought. However, Poseidon turned the ship to stone, and it still sits in the bay. Each winter, a storm rises up and the ship moves again, manned by what seem to be Odysseus and his crew. An army of tritones attack it, trying to sink it. The ship is considered a vis source owned by the Tribunal as a whole, though rarely harvested - you see, the vis is inside the tridents of the tritones, and they must be fought to gain it. The local magi most skilled at such combat are sworn not to take part in it by their patron, a king of the tritones.

Let's see...after Alexander the Great's sister failed to bring him the water of life, he cursed her to dwell in the sea forever, turning her into a mermaid. She is the namesake of the city Thessaloniki, and the reason its symbol is the twin-tailed mermaid. She is now called Gorgona, however, and roams the sea near Thessaloniki. She rides a chariot pulled by dolphins, and she asks passing sailors if Alexander the Great still lives. If they reply that he is dead, she sighs and then attacks their boat with a great wave to capsize it. If they reply that he still lives and rules, she will still the waves and let them pass in peace.

Mount Olympos is home to a massively potent faerie regio that is said to be home to the Greek gods, and the ambrosia of their palaces is said to be a great source of vis, though few magi have ever visited the Olympos regio. What is known, however, is that one of the forges of Hephaistos lies at the foot of Olympos, housing several enchanted items of legend. The forge is sacred to House Verditius and is guarded by a single magus, Theorus the Old of Verditius, a magus of the covenant Ingasia. Let's see...there's the pillars of Meteora, guarded by Divine eagles and inhabited by sacred hermits. The eagles will catch those that fall from the pillars, save the one non-Divine pillar, the Devil's Tower, which is inhabited by Infernal vultures. Hermits occasionally scale it to test their faith, for those who stay in the tower will suffer torments from the vultures and three temptations over the course of 40 days and nights, as the Devil seeks to turn them as he could not turn Christ in the desert.

There is a cave on Mount Pelion which is home to the wisest of centaurs, Chiron, who knows much of astronomy, divination and medicine. Many magi of Merenita have sought out Chiron's knowledge and wisdom. Sadly, not all have returned. Let's see...the oracle of Delphi is under Hermetic protection, and a single Criamon magus serves as the oracle now. While oracle, she takes the name Pythia, and will eventually choose her successor to be the next Pythia. The oracle's temple houses several potent vis sources, which belong first to Pythia and, once she has what she needs, to the Tribunal as a whole.

Of course they're the same guy!

Next time: the Islands

Aegean Islands

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: The Sundered Eagle: The Theban Tribunal

Macedonia has the weirdest undead.

Heading on to the Aegean islands...well, there's Delos. Delos was the birthplace of Artemis and Apollon, and the island floats. It was fixed to the sea bed by their mother Leto with four columns, but somewhere between 800 and 1200 years ago, it started floating again. It has no natural resources, but it is where the Theban Tribunal meets. The isle is now guarded by three nymphs of Hyperborea, who came there to guard shrines to Artemis and Apollon. The nymphs are the personifications of archery - Opis, who rules aim, Loxo, who rules trajectory and Arge, who rules distance. Two other nymphs, Hyperoche and Laodice, came to Delos from Hyperborea, but left. The three nymphs are quite eager to hear news of them. The nymphs will shoot anyone who disturbs their relics, though in accordance with Zeus' law, the trespassers will not die until they leave Delos. You see, Zeus ruled that the island would be home to neither birth nor death. It has been generations since that was tested, and no one really wants to try, to avoid pissing off Zeus. There are no predators on the island, and the magi have banned all predators from ever coming to it. The island flows through the Mediterranean over the year, following the currents, and returns home once every 19 years. The place is magically enchanted by its aura, causing restlessness in all that come there, so that no one ever thinks to settle on Delos.

The bay of the island Thera was created by a cataclysmic battle in the age of titans more than a thousand years before Christ. It was the site of the final battle between the Olympians and the Titans, and Zeus hurled the greatest titan, Typhon, into Tartaros where the bay now is. Typhon is imprisoned in the volcano that lies at the center of the bay, where he occasionally lets loose ash and fire to ravage the Aegean. Outside the bay is the most common haunt of the Thelassomachos, the Warrior of the Sea, a fairy who steals the nets of fishermen and summons winds to annoy them. He will not enter the bay, however, and his sudden fleeing from Thera may herald the arrival of one of Typhon's storms.

The island of Candia was once protected by the bronze man Talos, who was defeated by Medea and Jason. A local alchemist eventually restored Talos, and his ichor contains Ignem vis. For much of the Byzantine period, he was bound in one of the cellars within the Labyrinth of Knossos, but the ancient spell failed recently, releasing the bronze man. He is a giant, immensely powerful being who now circles Candia three times a day, hurling huge rocks at enemy ships or attacking enemies who land on the isle. This has been a huge problem for Venetian shipping, and the rulers of Candia have put out a decree saying they will handsomely reward anyone who can defeat the "demon" Talos. The true nature of the bronze man would also be of great interest to House Verditius.

On to Constantinople! Constantinople is a patchwork of auras from all four realms - Faerie from the ancient gods, Divine from the work of Constantine and others, Infernal from the atrocities the city has been home to and Magic from the work of the local magicians. The Hippodrome, site of Justinian's massacre of 30,000 rioters, suffers ghosts on the anniversary of their slaughter, January 14. Hundreds of Infernal ghosts rise that night, wailing in the Hippodrome. Before now they could not escape it, but since the Divine auras are now weakened at night, the ghosts may freely roam Constantinople on January 14 after sunset.

The Hagia Sophia, or Church of Divine Wisdom, is mostly a Divine place, though the nave is an Infernal aura, thanks to the slaughter of a thousand innocents by the Crusaders there. Most of the relics of the church were stolen, so they cannot weaken the Infernal aura. A few remain, however, due to being impossible to move. For example, the Column of Saint Gregory the Thaumaturge is literally part of the church, and it blesses the wound, healing them faster than nature allows.

Off to Anatolia! In the time of Saint Andrew, the city of Nicaea was haunted by seven demons. Andrew banished them into the form of dogs, which killed a young man. The young man was resurrected by God after Andrew prayed for him, and became one of his followers. The seven demon-dogs still prowl around the city's walls, though they may never enter Nicaea. They like to attack travelers at dusk, and kill maybe one person a month or so. They only attack lone travelers.

Next time: The supernatural forces of Greece.

Titans & Magical Beings

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: The Sundered Eagle: The Theban Tribunal

The most potent magical beings in the entirety of Greece are, without doubt, the Titans . They are not gods, nor are they fairies, but potent beings of magic who govern over the nature of the magic realm. The six male Titans govern time in the Magic Realm - Hyperion orders day and night, Krios keeps the constellations in order, Koios rules the axis of the heavens, Iapetos oversees mortality, Kronos rules that all-devouring time which decays all things and Okeanos orders the tides. Their wives, the female Titans, rule the natural forces. Theia is the brilliant sky, Mnemosyne (called Eurybia by some) is the weather's mistress, Phoibe is the prophetic earth, Themis (called Klymene) is the cavern of the underworld, Rhea is nature's fecundity and Tethys is the power of the waters. They are primal creatures, without need or desire for worship. Many of the Theban Tribunal are fascinated by these creatures, and those who study them can be roughly divided into three factions.

The Seekers of the Fallen see the Titans as governors of the universe, created by God before all others. They believe that should the Titans rule once more, a new age of magic will dawn, a reborn Garden of Eden. The most respected of these is Evantia of Moero's Garden, and they are known to seek out magical regiones and portals for study. The Legion of Atlas see the Titans foremost as enemies of the gods. However, they approve - they seek to undermine the faerie gods of Olympos, for they seek not to preserve the Magic Realm but to make it anew. This is dangerous, for the gods are potent and molesting them is against the Code. They have made an ally of the charismatic evangelist Kristophoros of Bonisagus, who seeks to purge the Tribunal of pagan practices. Kristophoros despises the Olympians, but does not mind the Titans, for they do not ask for worship. Last are Kampe's Lovers , who view the Titans as a government-in-exile, a group that can be used without being supported. They have no quarrel with the gods, nor any desire to free the Titans. Rather, they seek to find a greater bond with the primal beings, calling on their power without weakening their prisons.

Other than the titans, the most famous magical beings are the sibyls . Legend has it that ten sibyls were entrusted with the secrets of the cosmos. All predate Christianity, yet all predicted the birth of Christ and his life. Several theologians, including Saint Augustine and Peter Abelard, have declared them true prophets despite their pagan ties. A collection of their many sayings, the oracula sibillina , is widely circulated. What is known is that all sibyls are Magical humans, immortal and with true sight. Some are said to have been born mortal, and it may be that 'sibyl' is a role, not a nature. Each sibyl lies within a potent Magic aura or regio and cannot leave without risking loss of prophecy. Five of the known sibyls live within the Theban Tribunal, though each has a quirk in the manner of their prophecy.

Demophile lives in the town of Erythrae, and is closest to Christian teaching in her prophecies, so is more celebrated. She typically prophesizes in the form of riddles, often acrostics, which she is said to have invented. Herophile lives in the sacred cave of Delphi at Mount Parnassus. She is not and never was the same as the Pythia, the priestess of Apollo that is called the Delphic Oracle. Herophile gives prophecy only for those of royal blood, though she cares not for how dilute it is. Phyto of Samos is one of the more approachable sibyls. She demands any questions put to her be in the form of a riddling rhyme, though her answers are refreshingly plain. Amalthea dwells in Dardania on Mount Ida, though she hails from Troy. She will prophesize for any native-born Trojan, but will not speak of Troy at all or the city that stands now where it once did, and has not since she foresaw the Trojan War. Lamia of Phrygia has an unsavory reputation, though is probably not the monster which shares her name. You see, she needs to be physically defeated and forced to speak prophecy, unlike other sibyls, and is monstrously strong.

The other Sibyls dwell in ancient Babylon (Sambenthe), the Libyan Desert (Phemenoe), the Holy Land (Sabbe) or Italy (Carmentis and Albunea). The sibyls may not leave their shrines, but sometimes bear children to their visitors. Such children, called Sibyllides, are kin to magic, and always possess powers related to prophecy and supernatural sight. At least one has become a magus, specializing in Intellego magic. The Sibyllides are obligated to visit their mothers once per decade, reporting on all they see in the world so that the sibyls may judge if it is right to release more prophecy.

There are a number of non-Hermetic magical traditions in the area - the elementalists known as the Apostles of Apollonius are there, as are a number of folk witches, many of whom have been infiltrated by Infernal witches. There are Goetic sorcerers, and while there are no native mathematici, some may have come with the Venetians, while Constinople was notable for its alchemists and the rural areas had their cunning-folk. There are also a fair number of Nightwalkers and peasant magicians, who possess Folk Magic , the natural power to produce spells related to one of the four fields that naturally appear among the people: abjuration (the warding against supernatural beings or beasts), divination (magical senses for health, wealth and mental state), healing or the evil eye.

Now, the faeries. The most famous of all faeries in Greece are the Olympian gods. Twelve of them, Zeus, Poseidon, Demeter, Hera, Artemis, Apollon, Athene, Aphrodite, Hermes, Ares, Hephaistos and Dionysos, are the most famous, but the pantheon is large, containing others, such as Hades, Pan, Asklepios and Hestia, or the Heroes who descend from the gods. Many of these heroes produced bloodlines which bear some measure of their power - for example, the descendants of Akhilles are generally immune to harm from any metal, but suffer from terrible fury and rage.

The magus Lucian of Merenita has discovered a supernatural power he names the Elysian Ecstasy, which allows for the use of revelry and ecstatic channeling to call on the nature of a Greek god, gaining a touch of their personality and power. He has also found a greater form of this, the Olympian Pact, which grants greater influence over the personality to the god...but also gives access to the god's faerie powers rather than just their nature. Lucian is the only one who can teach these powers at the moment, and they do not follow the standard methods of the Merenita mysteries - anyone can learn them.

Next time: The Divine and Infernal in Greece

Groups & Gatherings

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

That's a pretty cool ship-to-ship combat system, though my complaint with those is pretty much always that a ship is treated as one character, so most of the party ends up just twiddling their thumbs for the dogfight while the pilot does all the work.

Ars Magica 5th Edition: The Sundered Eagle: The Theban Tribunal

Just to be clear: the division between the Eastern and Western Churches was finalized in 1054 over a theological dispute involving the phrase 'filoque', meaning 'and from the Son'. The breach has since widened until both the Latin and Orthodox Churches see each other, often, as heretics. Still, attempts at dialogue have continued, at least until 1204 and the burning of Constantinople. The entire issue has to do with how the Trinity is viewed. In the East, it is the Father, from whom proceeded the Son and the Spirit. In the West, it is the Father, from whom proceeded the Son, and the Holy Spirit proceeded from both Father and Son. Even in 1220, theology remains a major point of debate among the Greeks, and the lack of understanding of the Trinity by the Latins is a favorite joke. A baker in Constantinople may well engage you in theological debate simply to show he knows more than you do, and good theologians are often quite popular among Byzantines.

The Orthodox have a deep and abiding mystic tradition, dating back to the Desert Fathers, hermits who practiced ascetic contemplation, and the stylites, who climbed on pillars to fast, preach and meditate. There are no real groups of stylites left today, but there is a tradition of mystics creating a major impact on the Orthodox: the hesychasts. Hesychasm dates back to the Desert Fathers, but is now gaining influence. Essentially, a hesychast repeats the Jesus Prayer over and over while remaining perfectly still, enterting a meditative state via controlled postures and breathing. Ecstasy, premonitions and other supernatural phenomena are side effects; the real quest is to achieve control of emotion by letting the mind be drawn into the heart and the quest for God and salvation. The ultimate aim is to mystically experience the Divine and be illuminated by the holy spirit. Hesychasts can be ascetic or monastic. The ascetics specialize in Meditation, Purity, Transcendence and Understanding, while the monastics practice Meditation, Transcendence, Understanding and mass ceremony. All hesychasts are Orthodox at this time.

The Society of Saints Cyprian and Justina are a holy tradition that recall the pagan wizard Cyprian, who gave up his magic when he realized the sin of using it to try and force a young woman to love his client, the noble Aglaias of Antioch. He repented, burned his books and became a priest. The girl, Justina, became a deaconess, and they had many adventures together before they were martyred. They are the patron saints of magicians who repent, and the Holy Society is a small group in the Order of Hermes that specializes in Holy Magic, Invocation, Wonders and the sensing of holiness and unholiness.

Orthodox craftsmen can produce eikons, mundane but beautiful religious icons which empower prayers to the saint depicted on the eikon. There are also a number of relics in Constantinople, including several fragments of the True Cross and the Holy Lance of Longinus. The most important, though, were the Three Symbols of Divine Authority: the Imperial Battle Standard, the Emperor's Crown and the Hagka. The standard, when wielded in battle by the imperial standard bearer, empowered an army led by the Emperor with the power of his commanding aura. The crown, made personally for the emperor, allowed the other two to be augmented to greater power. Each emperor has had a personal crown, made just for them. The hagka is the symbol of the Empire, the double-headed eagle, which is made of bronze and mounted on a lance. It grants magic resistance to the bearer, and in conjunction with the other two, extended that to the entire army of the Emperor.

Mothers are particularly revered in the Empire for their tie to the Virgin Mary, mother of god and protector of Constantinople. All Byzantine mothers possess the holy power to curse their children. A mother's curse penalizes one are of skill, and can only be laid for good reason. The only way to remove a mother's curse is to complete the task she assigned with the curse or to receive direct divine intervention. Saints can remove the curse, but only will if it fits God's plan and you're a good person. After all, the mother's curse is meant to enforce Christian principles.

Remember the League of Constantine ? They want to restore the Byzantine empire to glory, and believe that the fall of Constantinople was caused by Infernal influence. They are correct. The hagka has gone missing, and they want to recover it. Returning the hagka to the city would help, but would not ensure success. Still, the hagka will grant the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of David and the mercy of Saint Paul to a truly devout Emperor. Unfortunately, the League has not accurately determined whom the Infernal manipulated. The demons are immune to their investigative magic, and finding a specific culprit has been impossible. The hagka could be anywhere, and they have no idea where to look.

Also the Hagka is a bird.

The truth is, the Infernal was on both sides. They corrupted the Byzantines, and even before the sack, the Byzantines were falling to decadence and infighting. Demonic agents gained a foothold in the soul of Emperor Andronikos Komnenos, who embraced his Infernal patron. After being exiled for plotting against his cousin, he sold his soul to a demon in the shape of a woman in 1182, conquering Constantinople with Infernal power. He let loose a terrible string of atrocities, and he sowed the seeds of conflict with Venice and Montferrat. Once he did that, his Infernal patrons betrayed him, and he died in agonizing torture.

The Crusaders, likewise, were cursed by Hell. They caused the death of the first leader of the Crusade, Thibaut of Champagne, and his replacement, Boniface of Montferrat, was less influential. Only 12000 agreed to follow him. When the Crusaders took Zara, Infernal influence prolonged the siege by telling the locals that the French would not fight them. (Which was false.) Then, they sacked Zara...and the horrified Pope excommunicated them. This opened them to true corruption, and the more pious crusaders abandoned the Crusade. Suddenly, the rebellious Alexios Angelos had the ear of their leaders, perhaps through intentional diabolic influence or perhaps as the unwitting puppet of Hell. Either way, they followed him and took Constantinople, encouraged to great violence by infighting and Infernal influence. Demons accompanied them into battle, pushing them to greater atrocity. Even the magi of Thermakopolis could not defend the city, and it fell with the aid of Infernal power.

Also the anti-Hagka.

Worse, the Tribunal itself has been infiltrated. One of the founders of the League of the Vigilant, Proximios of Mercere, is a secret diabolist. He uses demons as spies and tormentors, compelling his fellows to sin. He hopes to use the Thebans to destroy the Order of Hermes, though he must work covertly and patiently. He is using his position to hunt for weak links, founding the League of the Vigilant to persecute magi who appear to be diabolists in order to throw suspicion off himself. (Naturally, none of his preferred targets are actually Infernally influenced - he's going to use demons to trick everyone.) He also plans to induct true diabolists into his service to cause more Wizard's Wars and infighting. He hopes to become the next logothete to aid his plans, which are still very much not ready to be enacted.

There are also a few Infernal traditions in the area. The Stringles are a form of witch that seek to undermine the Church and aim to make man the slave of woman. They deal with demons, and outwardly appear normal, though their ankles and wrists do become deformed over time. A stringla is a powerful witch, by and large, and often works with normal folk witches. They specialize in Debauchery, Effusion, Phantasm and mass ceremony. The Paulicians , on the other hand, are a heretical sect in the Empire. They have not been persecuted since 990, when they were granted freedom of religion. They are a Manichaean sect, holding that Satan and God are eternally at war and that they are the only chosen people. They are outwardly ascetic and pious, so they are not seen as a threat. However, secretly, they hold that the material world is Satan's, and despise the Orthodox and the Jews. The inner circle know that their faith is not truly with God but with Satan, and they yearn for the day that they, like their forebears, may raise rebel armies to destroy the Byzantines. They plot in secret and denounce Jews and Christians, trying to strike at them when possible. The Paulicians specialize in Debauchery, Diablerie, Malediction and mass ceremony.

The End!

Choose: Choices are: the True Lineage Houses of Hermes and their secrets (Houses of Hermes: True Lineages), Mystery Cults (The Mysteries, Revised Edition), the Mystery Cult Houses (Houses of Hermes: Mystery Cults), more depth on Covenants (Covenants), the lost magic of the past (Ancient Magic), the Societates Houses (Houses of Hermes: Societates), France (Lion and Lily: The Normandy Tribunal), academic life (Art and Academe), the realms of magic and magical beings (Realms of Power: Magic), the Faeries (Realms of Power: Faerie), nobility (Lords of Men), the Church (The Church) or Germany (Guardians of the Forests: The Rhine Tribunal).

The Magic Realm

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Realms of Power: Magic

So, magic. Again, we need to define the term. Magic is of your nature - while you can become more Divine or Infernal just by changing how you act, Magic is what you are . It's in the blood. And what magic does is approach the Platonic ideal. A magical wolf is better at being a wolf than a normal wolf is. It is more wolflike, and worse at being a non-wolf. Three things are true of magic: First, it is objective. Magic is constant and measurable, not changing based on the viewer. It cannot change a thing's essential nature - indeed, magic is about getting closer to that essential nature. Magic is ancient - the older a thing is, the more powerful it is, with magic. This is because things get more magical over time; a new thing can still be very potent and an old thing weak, but as time goes on, magic increases. Last, magic is mysterious, unpredictable and strange. It has no guiding force, but a multitude of spirits. The less people know about a thing, the more potent its magic probably is. Magic prefers secrecy and isolation.

Magic auras are found in the glory of nature, in areas that are ancient and associated with magic (such as temples or stone circles), in areas where great acts of magic are done, and in places where powerful magical beings live. Places that naturally form vis also generally cause a magic aura to spring up. The use of magic can strengthen magic auras, while draining an aura to gain vis will weaken it. Magic auras generally strengthen the beasts and plants within them, makes the weather more extreme, enhances creativity and eccentricity and can even grant sentience to animals or cause strange portents.

The Magic Realm is one of the least understood places in Ars Magica. You can physically go there, unlike Hell or Heaven, but it's not nearly as easy as visiting, say, the Faerie Realm. Even magi cannot agree on what the Magic Realm really is . Some say that it is a collection of worlds each contained within a single thing - so a tree can contain an entire forest, say. Everywhere you visit in the Magic Realm is thus tied back to some object. This theory posits that these worlds are cosms , tied to objects and influencing them. A single pebble could contain a country, and this is a microcosm. All wolves may contain, within them, a fragment of the domain of King Wolf, who lairs in a macrocosm in the magic realm. Changing a cosm would thus somehow influence the real worl, though not always in predictable ways. Cosms resemble the mundane world superficially, but with differing or suspended natural laws, especially those involving geography or gravity.

Some others claim the Magic Realm is a physical place, part of the natural world which is somehow connected to it, like a giant regio overlying the entire world, a sphere of magic beneath the lunar sphere, or perhaps just another place on the globe. They say that every location is like an island within a great sea, or a distant country. These metaphorical islands are called insulae , appearing as places in the mundane world supercharged with power. Journeys between insulae are perilous, traveling the Twilight Void, and travelers between insulae are much respected by the creatures of the insulae. Insulae are often foreign and exotic, with alien ways and strange beings.

And some claim the Magic Realm is a record of the events of the world, and that traveling in it is like traveling in the past. Each location, these people say, is a moment in history, a tempus . As you get further from the mundane world, the tempora get older and older, so the most potent ones are ancient. The Criamon especially love this theory. In a tempus, time may behave strangely, perhaps stopping or repeating an event over and over, or going backwards. Some tempora reenact historic events, and proponents of this theory say they are perfectly accurate to the true event, so long as outsiders do not change them.

None of these theories has been proven. For those who hold the cosm theory, insulae are just very metaphorical cosms and tempora are cosms that capture a moment in time. The Twilight Void is the space between cosms. For the insula theory, cosms and tempora are just very strange insulae, some of which can influence the mundane world for...no apparent reason. The Twilight Void is the ocean in which insulae sit. For the tempus theory, cosms and insulae are tempora that have been changed by the creatures within them or which have visited them. The Twilight Void is the time between times. All of these theories have some evidence, but none are definitive.

Those who visit the Magic Realm do not grow or improve while there; they are static in their capabilities. Rather, they gain vis. They do not age, though they heal as normal. Magical spells with long durations do not end normally, but last until the turning of the season, and those that last for a year are effectively permanent within the magic realm. Arcane connections are temporarily interrupted while in the Magic Realm. Of course, getting there is half the trick. Some regiones may allow access, and occasionally a magical creature will possess the power to travel there, with or without others. Some magical disasters can drop you there. Other than that, well, good luck finding another path.

The Twilight Void is part of the Magic Realm, but fundamentally different from the rest of it. It is a place that connects places, or something of that nature. It is a ghostly, mysterious place that can only be reached by traveling between the locations in the Magic Realm or by magical disaster. It is known that there are ten 'provinces' of the Void, each corresponding to a Hermetic Form. When traveling in a province, one can see ghostly images of that Form - so plants in the Herbam province, but no animals, say. Those in the Void need not eat, drink nor sleep, and they do not age. Their wounds neither heal nor worsen naturally, and long-term fatigue is not restored by rest. They neither gain new experience nor gather vis like in the rest of the Magic Realm; they are unaffected by their time there entirely. Travel is based on comprehension, not distance. There are creatures native to the place - Daimons, powerful magical beings that cannot leave the Void without forming an Aspect. More on Daimons later.

Next time: Magical characters.

Magic Characters

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

This one's kind of short, but largely because there was no room for what would follow it.

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Realms of Power: Magic

A 'magic character' is one with Magic Might. They are not truly human, even if they take human shape. They have innate Magic Resistance, natural magical powers, never need to eat, drink, sleep or age, do not need shelter and, indeed, do not even need to breathe. They can still benefit from doing all that if they felt like it, of course - if they don't do it, they don't recover magical power. They just don't need to. Magic characters may consume vis, using it to empower themselves. Further, magic charactes find it much easier than normal people to visit the Magic Realm and interact with it.

There are four kinds of magic character: First, Magic Animals , the most common, whose true form is that of a beast. They generally look like a normal animal, but larger, more wild or stranger. Most animals cannot speak and have no hands or ability to grasp things, though some animals possess a natural power to speak language. Smaller animals tend to have more potent magical powers, though that is far from always being true. Second, Magic Humans are naturally human-shaped, though some are so changed by magic that they cannot pass for human. Indeed, all magic humans possess a monstrous appearance, making them obviously supernatural. Some of them have the Gift, but it is extremely rare, and because they are often not considered human, a magus of this nature would probably seek to hide their true form. Third, Magic Things possess a natural form made of inanimate matter, made animate by magic. This can be a magical tree, a statue that moves, or even an elemental, made of raw fire or water held together by magic. Their magical power is strictly limited by their size - the larger the matter is, the more powerful they can become. This size can be increased literally (by absorbing matter into the self) or metaphorically (a sword becomes metaphorically larger when wielded by a human, for example). However, a magic sword that gains power by such a metaphorical increase would lose it when the wielder no longer holds it. Magic things can move on their own, though generally quite slowly, and may pick things up if they can touch them, even lacking hands. This often looks strange and frightening, as if an invisible spirit were doing it. Magic things can usually speak and make noises appropriate to their form, as well, though many refuse to, or lack the ability. Magical things never get tired, but their powers are easily weakened by damage. Last, magic spirits are naturally insubstantial, such as ghosts, living illusions or Daimons. Their forms are not physical and are usually invisible. While in theory immortal, a spirit which is banished or somehow torn apart in its incorporeal form is effectively dead, even if it returns to life later. Magic spirits always possess an innate magical air, similar to the effects of the Gift.

Because magic characters do not actually age, they are divided instead by Season: a Spring character is like a child still adapting to its power, with little practical experience and often little history. They are equivalent to a five-year-old child, compared to humans. A Summer character is more like a young adult, effectively around 20 and just beginning their prime. An Autumn character is more mature and experienced, effectively 35 or so - in the prime of life and knowledge. A Winter character is truly ancient and powerful - old, even by magic standards, and generally distant and detached from the world. If human, they would be 50 or older.

Besides standard Virtue and Flaws, magic characters have Qualities and Inferiorities, natural magical traits that are much easier for them to gain or lose. These can range from truly immense size to magical powers to the ability to hide their true nature or speak with the tongues of man...or gain specific weaknesses, heal more slowly, and have limited ability to gesture or use hands. As an aside, there's some neat new powers for normal people here, too. Atlantean Magic allows a magus to learn how to extend their powers to have greater effect over water and things on water.

Magical characters, meanwhile, do suffer some problems compared to humans: they can't learn very well. They resist change due to their magical power, and so any study they do is weakened by it, unless they offset this with the consumption of vis. This can get expensive. Further, they suffer Acclimation , a process that weakens their magical power if they do not maintain sufficient contact with magic. This can be avoided by three methods. First, a magic creature that spends time in a magic aura might be protected, though often this requires the aura be very strong and the creature not leave it for very long in a year. Second, by utilizing magic powers on magicians or by being affected by magical spells, they can maintain their connection. Lastly, they can consume vis to prevent acclimation.

Magical characters and, more rarely, normal humans touched by magic may also possess Essential Traits . An Essential Trait can be good or bad, but it does represent an unchanging facet of your essential nature. For example, you might be Sure-Footed, or Shy. These traits will change your stats when they apply, for the better or worse...and more importantly, no magic will ever make you act against your Essential Traits. If you are shy, no magic can ever force you not to be. Which can be handy, assuming you don't want the magic to work.

Next time: Specific Types of Magical Animals

Magic Animals

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

And that's enough excuse for me to push this one out because I seriously want to share it, it has some of my favorite things in the entirety of Ars Magica.

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Realms of Power: Magic

Many magic animals aren't intelligent, though obviously any PC is going to be. They are often sought out as familiars, or as vis sources...though, on the other hand, magical animals also often seek out magi to eat their vis. (Note: a Familiar never suffers from Acclimation, which is why many magical animals will actually agree to the otherwise arduous job.) Beasts of Virtue are especially sought after, for they make great familiars. However, they are very rare - in a large habitat such as an entire forest, there may be exactly one Beast of Virtue. A Beast of Virtue epitomizes all the traits of its species, generally to supernatural degrees. They possess the mythic qualities ascribed by bestiaries, unlike their mundane counterparts, and they solely possess powers related to the perfection of their mythic properties. No Hermetic has ever been able to create a Beast of Virtue; all attempts have, instead, produced Transformed Beasts.

Example Beasts of Virtue include the Black Boar of the Bog, which can make boar herds harder to kill, resists earth magic and can cause mortal terror. It guards its home against all predators and humans, regardless of their intentions. The Caladrius is a bird of Virtue written of by Pierre de Beauvais, which may detect whether someone is sick and how serious it is, and which may cure non-fatal diseases with its gaze. Royalty loves owning them, for they will gladly heal any disease which is not fatal. The Panther of Virtue possesses a breath that smells of spice and flowers, as written of by Pliny the Elder, which entices prey to its doom. It is not a brave creature, however, and prefers ambush and to flee those that fight back.

The Birds of Nephelococcygia derive from the magical regio Nephelococcygia, the land in the clouds written of by the playwright Aristophanes. They are not Beasts of Virtue, and are one and all intelligent as men. Some, including their king, Tereus, claim to be humans transformed into birds, but this may or may not be true. Their city is built of guano and terracotta, with many perches. Those who cannot fly in the city are not respected, and must deal with gatekeepers, while those who can fly can bypass them and earn the respect of the birds. Each year at winter, all Birds of Nephelococcygia attend the Assembly of Birds, and while little of importance is discussed there, missing it will cause a bird to be ostracised, and so winter is spent rehearsing songs and visiting the Assembly. All Birds of Nephelococcygia may find their way back there without error, guided by instinct. They also possess good vision and reflexes. They also often possess magical songs which can command birds, the weather or the aging process.

The Magical Lineages of Cats are well known to magi. The Black Lineage descends from the Familiar of the magus Jerbiton, who was a prince of Egyptian cats and bore the blood of the queens of ancient Bubastis. The Black Lineage is ruled by an elected monarch, who lives within the domus magna of Jerbiton, Valnastium. They are aristocratic and aloof, and they see themselves as defenders of the home. The White Lineage descends from the Familiar of the magus Mercere, and are often found in Mercer Houses. They are indulgent, friendly cats who like to see themselves as protectors of people and world travellers. The Tortoiseshell Lineage is a largely female lineage descended from the cats of pre-Hermetic Celtic sorcerers. They may have had links to House Diedne, and in the Schism War they split in two, so now a king of cats rules them in both Scotland and the Rhineland. Male tortoiseshells are often more magical, for they are rarer, and they tend to act very feminine, which is offputting to other cats. (Humans tend not to notice.)

Cats can possess many magical powers. Some have the ability to cow humans, in order to help them overcome the shock of talking cats. Some can steal breath or the milk of cows. Some can raise corpses by whispering to them. And some possess Humans are Easily Misplaced , allowing them to unerringly track any person they have marked with scent, or Incredibly Cute , which impairs the reason of humans with excessive endearingness. The Black Cats of Jerbiton are especially notable for possessing the power to patrol and area and thus ward it against magic power, especially demons. Magic cats are great .

Dragons and Dragon-kind are some of the largest and most fearsome magical beasts. They come in several types. Serpents are the least of the dragons' kin, little more than glorified snakes with potent bites or stings and some magical powers. The greatest of serpents is the Basilisk. Magi use the term 'serpent' solely to refer to magical snakes with no mundane counterparts. Drakes are caricatures of dragons, misshapen and generally rather dumb. All drakes have two or four legs, and many have wings that are too stunted to fly. They generally possess some form of dangerous breath, and can range in size from a chicken to more than an elephant. Worms are essentially gigantic serpents, though they occasionally have stunted legs or wings. They are generally venomous and can often exhale a cloud of poison, or fire. Most are also able to crush things in their coils. True dragons are the mightiest and most potent of them all, intelligent and crafty. They have four legs and (usually) functioning wings. Dragons may have any number of powers, and range from slightly smaller than a human to as large as a castle.

And yes, you can play as a dragon, though a PC dragon will usually be magus-level. For a weaker one, look to a drake or worm. One of the sample dragons is my favorite NPC in the entire game: Varkos the Fire Drake. He breathes fire and desperately wants you to take him seriously. He isn't actually very fierce on his own, but he knows many dragon legends and strives to live up to them. (His treasure horde, he feels, is coming along nicely. It can fill two handbaskets.) He lives in a cave and raids livestock, but tries to avoid hurting humans because if he can just terrify them they will spread his legend. Occasionally he builds up the nerve to rob travellers and is looking forward to the first time the villagers bring him a virgin sacrifice. (Varkos does not know what a virgin is, or what a real dragon is supposed to do with one. He just wants one, because that is what dragons get.) The main reason he is doing all this is that Varkos is incredibly lonely and bored, and wants to attract a mate so that he has someone to talk to. He really likes talking to people, and enjoys encountering humans because it gives him someone to talk to. Unfortunately, he's a really goony dragon and is not good at conversations that don't involve stories about dragons. He may well spare people if they promise to spread his legend. He resembles a gigantic, red, scaly bulldog with a crocodile head and an underbite. He has tiny, useless wings.

Transformed Animals are the term which magi use to classify those beasts which are touched by magic and warped by it. The primary difference between them and Beasts of Virtue is that Transformed Animals possess powers utterly unrelated to the normal qualities of the creature they resemble, but rather related to the magical incident that created them. Many also are not true creatures of magic, lacking Magic Might. Examples include felis aquatica , the Cat-Fish of Champagne, which is a feline mermaid that steals fish from fishermen. It is believed that it was a cat warped in a magical regio in the river Seine.

Other magical animals are, of course, possible - gryphons, for example, are neither Beasts of Virtue nor Transformed Animals, though likely would be classified as closer to the former. (Or as fairies. A gryphon might well be a fairy.)

Next time: Magic Humans

Magic Humanoids

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Realms of Power: Magic

There is much debate over whether magic humans have souls and what happens to them when they die. The most famous and largest of them are the giants , who range from eight feet to perhaps 30 feet tall, typically. Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote that the giants were the original people of Britain, before humans arrived. Giant bones can be found embedded in stone throughout Europe, and it is believed that these are the remains of giants killed in the Deluge of Noah. Some say giants are the cursed descendants of Cain, but magi tend to prefer the idea that they are descended from primeval giants such as the Titans or Ymir, or perhaps that they are some enchanted offshoot of humanity, Warped long ago by forgotten magics.

British (and, in general, most non-Norse) giants are typically violent, boorish and cruel, coarse and ugly in appearance and manner. The males especially are boastful and easily provoked to violence, and many giants are gluttons or drunkards. They are not usually very smart. A rare few are peaceful or even gentle, but they are very much the exception. Most giants lack magical powers save for their immense size and strength. Trolls and jotnar of Norse legend, however, are different. They are more elemental, tied to fire or storms or frost or mountains or the sea. Some have full-on magical powers - there are jotun vitkir out there, along with trollsynir and muspelli. Some are very wise, able to divine the future. Some can shapeshift, or even change their size, and the jotnar are not necessarily ugly or brutish, unlike their British cousins. Your average jotun is between eight and 60 feet tall. The trolls of Scandinavia are on the shorter end, for giants - generally no more than 17 feet or so - and typically very ugly or misshapen. They are equally likely to be magical giants or fairies, and often possess monstrous features.

Spirit Votaries are not actually magical beings, but a form of Mythic Companion human. In pre-Christian days, they would head entire cults, but now they tend to be solitary. They possess second sight, and have made a pact with a spirit (or more than one spirit, but generally it is just the one). They often possess other supernatural powers, but it is the spirit pact that makes them so powerful. You see, a spirit votary channels the power of the spirit into their body, gaining access to the magical powers of the spirit despite not actually being innately magical themselves.

Then there are the Magic Kin , families of strange magical beings in human form. They often do not live and reproduce as humans do, passing on their traits in other ways. (Some, of course, do breed as men do.) There are all kinds of Magic Kin, but the book only lists ten. Atlanteans are strange creatures of the deep oceans, and most take the form of fish. Some, however, become almost human when they leave the waves, perhaps caught in fishing nets. Some Hermetics claim the Atlanteans are the descendants of the original inhabitants of the continent Atlantis, while others contend that they are merely magical beings of the sea and utterly unconnected to the continent written of by the ancient Greeks. Some Merenita believe that mermaid stories come from garbled tales of Atlanteans. Atlanteans possess powers related to the ocean and water, and all of them may command beasts of the waters. They can interbreed with humans, and a few magi have studied their magical powers, learning to use them in Hermetic spells.

Flame Dancers are born with fire in their blood. They are possessed by the spirit of flame - some say literally, while others say it is a metaphor for madness, and some believe they are nothing more than hedonists. Whatever the case: they are fire given the life of a human body. They have two loves - fire and flesh. The love a good bonfire, and their name comes because most cannot resist dancing around a fire. All Flame Dancers are compelled to do something related to fire - to play music before fires, to drink next to a crackling fire, to fight with flames. The compulsion and the fire are deeply intertwined. While the fires burn, they feel no fatigue, and they may set fire to things with a touch. Unlike most magical beings, they age as men do, for it is in the nature of flame to die.

Forgotten Gods were once powerful magical beings, worshipped or feared by pagan men. Over time, they have been forgotten, replaced by fairies, angels or demons as the things they embodied became viewed not as magical, but as divine, infernal or story. Eventually, these gods ceased to exist. A few may remain, sleeping, in the Magic Realm, as they await their time once more. However, there was another way for these gods to survive: by taking on living shape. Within their new bodies, they could interact with the world, constrained by mortal flesh but not withering away. Forgotten Gods often possess great magical power over the domain they once represented. Some say that the Founder Mercere was the reincarnation of Mercury himself in human form, though most believe he was, rather, a man born with the blood of gods whose nature was close to that of the god Mercury, rather than being literally Mercury in human flesh.

It is believed that the trees are connected by magic, and it is known that in strong magical areas, the trees talk to each other. Some trees even awaken as magical beings. And once every generation or so, a tree is born in human shape, or takes on human form. It is the duty of these Loamwalkers to represent the trees in the human world. They hide their natures as much as they can, and use their powers to go into human society and protect forests. The Loamwalkers fear being revealed, but they try to join and influence groups interested in nature. They are shy and antisocial, and usually must spend years getting to know people, often in the shape of a tree, before they feel comfortable around them. Some Loamwalkers have possessed the Gift, and some have even become magi. All may teleport between trees nearby, become trees and visit the Twilight Void of Herbam.

Sometimes, a child is abandoned by parents who cannot care for it. Very few survive. Those that do, however, tend to be left in magical regiones or auras where they gain power from the magic. They cease to be mere humans becoming magical Lost Children , forever young and unchanging. They typically appear to be between the ages of 5 and 15, and all possess the power to close minor wounds with a touch. Many, however, are cursed never to become mature or, indeed, anything but eternal children.

A rare few lakes are home to the Men of the Lake , something like a water elemental that can become human. When they travel on the surface, the Men of the Lake claim they are seeking scholarly information on the surface world, and it is unclear if they are in fact elementals or just something similar. It is believed that their lakes are all connected by magical regiones or underwater tunnels, for it is known that what one Man of the Lake learns, all soon become aware of in the next few years. It is believed that they once helped and sheltered House Diedne, so the Men of the Lake are not well-trusted. They claim not to understand Hermetic politics, and no one is entirely sure what the true power of their leaders is. It is known, however, that five magi who attacked a Lake stronghold in the Schism War never returned. Their society is based on strict seasonal lines. Spring Men rarely venture forth, while Summer Men explore the world and Autumn Men join societies based on their interests. Winter Men return to the lakes, and no one seems entirely clear on what happens to them, even other Men of the Lake. They appear to become something like great, sentient libraries for the Men of the Lake, and possibly also leaders. No one is really sure. Either way, the Men of the Lake possess the power to take on the shape of anything they touch, though made of solid water, and possess many powers related to water.

Occasionally, the impossible happens: a child is born to one or more parents that are ghosts. These are the Orphan Born , real humans born of the dead. They often grow up in monasteries or nunneries, for they have no parents living to raise them in most cases. (If only half-ghost, the living parent tends not to take things well.) The Orphan Born can see and interact with spirits, and many are able to become incorporeal. As they age, they become more and more transparent, do not cast shadows and easily spook animals. They are often disturbed by ghosts, especially their ghostly parents.

High above the clouds in the great magical sky-sea regiones, there are flying ships, navigated by sailors who never touch the ground. The magic of the air is in their blood, or so it is said, and in the blood of their children. These are the People of the Clouds , very close to true humans. They are said to be descended from sailors caught up in such a storm that it hurled their ship into the sky itself, from which they never came down. Little is known of these cloud-people, but it is believed that all can command and harness the winds. Some can walk on clouds and treat them as solid, and most are afflicted with a terrible wanderlust.

It is said that there are men of earth and clay who are made human somehow, statues brought to life or giants of stone whose descendants became human. These Stoneskinned are men of living rock, moving statues. As they age, they typically become more solid and powerful. As children, only the nails are stone, and the skin becomes stonier with age. By middle age, all the body is stone save the hair, which falls out, and eventually, their features seem to wear away to mere rock. They are very hard to hurt, but generally quite slow. Many are afflicted by arthritis or are cursed to be unable to move in sunlight.

Lastly, the Warders of Mystery , also called Auditores, are a strange society of historians and philosophers touched by magic. They are said to have once studied magical events, but discovered that writing them down and spreading them killed the magic. Now, they believe that mystery is vital to keeping magic in the world (and their own immortality). They seek to prevent public display of magic, to help limit the damage caused by magical beings and to punish those who misuse their magic. They are naturally able to scry on areas they have an arcane connection to, and are typically not very good at avoiding meddling.

The next major type of Magical Human is the Transformed Human , a human being born mortal but transformed into something else by the touch of magic. (And, often, death.) Occasionally, a living magus will seek a way to become one of these. For example, there are the Drowned Men , those who drown at sea within magical regiones and are saved by the beings of water, changed into inhuman creatures of the sea. Typically, it doesn't happen by accident - you have to negotiate with magical creatures of water to arrange your being saved, and then drown yourself. Still, if you want immortality, it's...well, it's very risky, but it might work. There are similar tales of the Burned Man, saved by creatures of fire, and the Buried Men, saved by creatures of earth.

Last are the Revenants , the walking dead. Ghosts are disembodied spirits; revenants are corpses that walk. They move through some burning personal need, and generally possess only a tiny fragment of their living memories. They do not tire or feel pain, and they can ignore wounds that would kill a living man. When they fight, it is usually without weapons, for many are monstrously strong. The primary goal of most revenants is very simple: hunt down and kill their murderer. Still, they can have other goals, much like ghosts have different motivations and goals. There are other transformations that a magus can go through, becoming a Daimon, a living ghost or an alchemical being of magic, but those are detailed in the Mystery Cults Revised.

Next time: Magical Spirits

Magic Spirits

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Realms of Power: Magic

Magic spirits are very important to magi, but are also extremely limited in their ability to...do things. See, their bodies are pure form, with no matter whatsoever. Without use of magical powers, they can't even interact with matter in any way, and without magic, no material being can sense or interact with them. They can fly, ignore physical damage and are immortal. However, they also lack...basic physical traits, like color or size. People see them as they imagine the spirit should look, and interpret their communication as sound, but in reality it's just...neither. Spirits typically have a handful of magic powers, one of which is generally some ability to interact with the physical world - perhaps by possessing a human, perhaps by creating a body from incidental matter, perhaps by telekinesis or possession of nearby objects.

The weakest spirits are the Airy Spirits , beings that are native to the material world. They can be found, in theory, anywhere, and are quite common in magic auras, though usually unnoticed because most Airy Spirits have no interest in material things at all. They are divided into Florae and Fauni , which represent specific plants and animals respectively (for no known purpose) and which are generally very dumb, Spirits of the Elements , which represent specific inanimate objects (and, again, seem to have no purpose for existence and tend to be very bad at dealing with mundane reality), the Imagines , embodiments of sensory phenomena, Eidolons , the spirits of emotions, and Genii Loci , the spirits of places. Jinn are a subspecies of genius locus. Almost none of these Airy Spirits are particularly suited for PCs, since few have much real interest in the human world except jinn, and jinn can't leave their locus without making a bargain with someone. Normal genii loci can't leave their locus at all.

Beyond the Airy Spirits are the Named Spirits, the Daimons . These draw power from their True Names, and may not send their true forms into the world. Rather, they can send only Aspects of themselves. Each Daimon is the spiritual reflection of some aspect of the world, perhaps the spirit of a river in its totality, or Helios, the spirit of the sun. Such beings are far too potent to be PCs in most cases, and also far too unable to interact with the world as normal characters. (Some magi seek immortality by becoming Daimons, however.) Above them are the Primal Spirits, known as Protogonoi and Kosmokraters. Protogonoi are truly ancient beings, the First Born, with no interest at all in the mundane world. Kosmokraters are slightly more active - these are the Titans, the jotun-father Ymir, the Celtic Fomoire. They are potent but generally imprisoned spirits of immense vastness and power.

A spirit you might be more likely to play is a Ghost . Ghosts have highly variable mental states - some are lucid and rational, while others are insane or delusional. Some magi suppose that ghosts come in different kinds, or that some are even Airy Spirits misidentified. The most common ghost is the kind that claims to be a dead person returned from the afterlife. These are known as apparitions , and they have some strong emotional tie to the world, which they desperately seek to resolve. They look and behave as they did in life, with nearly complete memory of life and normal awareness. They know they're dead and want to complete their quest so they can pass on. They can explain what keeps them there and how to help. You'd think they'd be safe to deal with, but they are obsessed with resolving their issue, and may resort to trickery or force to get you to help. Most other ghosts are less lucid than them, though.

Shades are those ghosts that appear as distorted reflections of the once-living. They, too, are kept to the world by an emotional tie, but they are so influenced by it that it dominates their existence. They are essentially a mental caricature of their former life, reshaped by death. They have reason, but are perpetually overwhelmed by a single emotion, which dominates their thinking. Their memories are complete only when related to what ties them to the world; all other memories are fragmentary at best. Shades tend to have a distorted sense of time, often reliving the leadup to their deaths over and over. They are often delusional and may mistake new people or places for familiar ones. They tend to have trouble remembering things that happen after their deaths, too. Most ghostly warders are a shade obsessed with protecting someone they knew in life.

Spectres are another kind of ghost - the kind that continues the role it had in life. Ghostly miners that continue to mine after a cave-in, say. They are less personal than apparitions or shades, more related to their occupation or role than their life. Their worldly ties tend to be rather abstract, so laying them to rest is harder. They often appear as mere shadows of the living, forgetting most of their lives. Their only skills are those relevant to their roles. Some Churchmen say that they are souls being punished for impiety, but magi believe they are more a shadow of the mind created by traumatic death and some unknown mystical phenomenon. Some claim they are not ghosts at all, but a form of Airy Spirit. House Tremere uses spectres as ghostly soldiers.

Some ghosts, as a note, do not even realize they're dead. Some believe ghosts are those who are in Purgatory, since no one can actually agree on where Purgatory is . Ghosts who know they're dead usually describe their existence in terms of the religion they followed in life, but this could well be an elaborate delusion caused by the trauma of death. Orthodox magi point to the fact that non-Latin ghosts never claim to come from Purgatory as proof that it doesn't exist, while others claim that is because only those of the "true" faith go there. No one has any real idea what the metaphysical status of a ghost is, and frankly, it doesn't really matter much.

Next time: Magic Things

Magic Things

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Realms of Power: Magic

First up, we get some new forms of vis - no, you can't play as vis. Basically, there are three kinds: Lesser Enchantment Vis , a form of vis that functions as a minor enchanted item, Spell-Like Vis , which can be consumed to power as single spell contained in it, and Dedicated Vis , which empowers some specific kind of vis usage, such as enchanting or spellcasting. Unfortunately, such vis must be kept in its natural form or the power is lost, so you may run into trouble with vis that is naturally, say, fog. On the other hand, some of the magical powers of the vis are annoying or unpleasant, so turning them off by transferring the vis into other forms may be what you want.

Herbs and Objects of Virtue are another thing you can't actually play. What they are is, again, the platonic ideal of whatever it is they are. Unlike Beasts of Virtue, they don't move around. However, they often contain vis. The other thing is that you can Enrich them, utilizing your magical knowledge to unlock the powers within them. Anyone can then use that power...but, sadly, the Aegis of the Hearth suppresses it completely, and the innate Hermetic magic resistance also interferes. As a result, Hermetic magi tend to ignore the benefits of Enrichment, though it is much more commonly used by hedge magicians.

Awakened Trees ...well, you generally aren't going to play as one, because they're roughly as smart as a dog or cat, usually. They can move about somewhat, but become very lethargic in low magic auras. A very rare few are actually fully mobile. But hey, there are vaguely sentient trees out there, and they do talk to each other. They just don't talk about things any more complex than most animals do.

Awakened Items are rather more intelligent, and you...well, you can play as one, I guess. If you feel like being a cloak or a sword. They tend to be created when enchanted items are exposed to large quantities of magic by lab accidents or the Magic Realm. The example is Amiculum, an enchanted cloak that came to life when its master took it to the Magic Realm. Amiculum now tries very hard to stay clean and pure, and to protect its master from harm. It speaks Latin and can move around, but it prefers not to do so for fear of embarrassing its master.

Kelpies are strange magical... things that live at the bottom of pools. Their natural form is a mass of oily black tentacles with beaks, but they can transform into black horses. They attempt to devour other horses and any human foolish enough to ride them. They can, however, be tamed. They are about as smart as a horse, do not tire, resist magic and run very quickly. In horse form, they also don't look explicitly magical. They must rest in magical auras, however, and generally in pools. They're more (very dangerous) pets and less PCs.

Elementals , now, you can play one. Most aren't intelligent, but a very rare few will be. Elementals are magical creatures composed of pure elemental matter. They aren't actually alive, and neither grow nor reproduce. Rather, they are rarefied from atoms of pure matter, none of which have ever lived nor been forged into something new. Magi can create elementals, either on purpose or by accident. Further, high magic auras may naturally generate elementals. Once created, an elemental exists until destroyed. They do not age, hunger or suffer disease. They are driven by impulse, and almost no elemental possesses any capacity for rational thought in the traditional sense.


Even an intelligent elemental being is a simple-minded creature, and most are just not intelligent in any sense of the term. All elementals tend to be inexperienced, for they are just not things that learn easily. Their size determines their power. They also do not suffer wounds in the traditional sense; rather, damage done to them weakens the binding of their bodies, destroying the magic that holds them together. They can only be killed by being drained of vis; they will eventually regenerate from their inanimate, 'destroyed' state otherwise. However, their reanimation requires vis to happen, which might take years to show up, so that hardly matters.

Earth Elementals are known as genomi, gnomes, pygmaei or telluri. They can be made from any earth unworked by human hands - soil, sand, stone, naturally occurring metals. They are patient, long-lived creatures that thirst for moisture - especially that which lies within the living. They are highly territorial and will attack anyone in their defined territory. They make excellent guards. They general appear as rather cubic piles of rock or dirt, and move by sliding their cubic components in endless cycles. They are exceptionally strong and shockingly fast, and they can generally ignore most slashing weapons, though picks spades and hammers work well. They crush their foes with their heavy limbs, and often have the power to rust metal or consume the moisture within their victims.

Water Elementals are also called lymphae, undines, undena, ondines, aquacolae, nymphs or alcyones. They are made of natural liquids, typically salt or fresh water, and the liquid must not be seperated from its source. They are always perfectly pure. They are the most intelligent of elementals, for what that's worth, and are very tough. However, they are slow and unsuitable as guards. Their nature drives them to collect and mix substances together, and so their lairs are often home to an eclectic array of garbage. They smother and drown their foes, and can often extract heat from them and can usually scry via rivers or other bodies of water. They are made of symmetrical humps of triangle-faceted icosahedrons.

Air Elementals are known as zephyri, silvestres, sylphs, aeoliae, nenuphas or brontes. Any air under open sky or any natural weather can be made into an air elemental, which is made of octohedral chains, ropes and loops. They are utterly restless, unable to remain still. and move constantly unless constrained by magic. They are very perceptive creatures, aware of any movement, and cannot be surprised. They desire to dissolve barriers and rigidity, and many can dissolve matter. They attack by suffocating foes, and many may also shoot lightning and dissolve things.

Fire Elementals are known as phlegethi, ignigena, vulcans, rolamandri, salamanders and aethnici. They are rare, for they occur only from natural flame - usually lightning strikes, sometimes earth-fires, natural alchemical reactions or the fires of the upper atmosphere. They can form from natural fires fed later by fuel, and they tend to be short-lived, lasting only while they have fuel to burn. They are extremely fast and beguiling. Their flames are tetrahedral, long and thin or low and flat as needed. Their insticts are clear: burn, consume the cold and replace it with heat, and escape all confinements. They burn their foes, and often have the power to fascinate the minds of man with their colors or to shoot blasts of flame.

The End!

Choose: Choices are: the True Lineage Houses of Hermes and their secrets (Houses of Hermes: True Lineages), Mystery Cults (The Mysteries, Revised Edition), the Mystery Cult Houses (Houses of Hermes: Mystery Cults), more depth on Covenants (Covenants), the lost magic of the past (Ancient Magic), the Societates Houses (Houses of Hermes: Societates), France (Lion and Lily: The Normandy Tribunal), academic life (Art and Academe), the Faeries (Realms of Power: Faerie), nobility (Lords of Men), the Church (The Church) or Germany (Guardians of the Forests: The Rhine Tribunal).


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ancient Magic won the roll.

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Ancient Magic

Ancient Magic deals in lost arts of the past...and what art is more lost and ancient than the tongue of Adam, in which Adam named all things? The Adamic language is the most pure descriptive language in the world. It is the first tongue, perhaps even that spoken by God to create the universe. The power of naming may well be the first form of magic, ever, and there is good reason to learn the Adamic tongue. Fluency in Adamic allows you to name anything in range of your voice, creating a permanent Arcane Connection to that thing, and gaining an Arcane Connection to any mundane thing you know the name of. Further, even rudimentary knowledge of Adamic allows for greater ease in piercing Magic Resistance so long as you know the target's name. Further, when you Name something for the first time, before it has ever had any name before, you subtly change and influence its destiny.

Adamic doesn't even need to be integrated into Hermetic magic - just knowing Adamic is enough to make it work. The hard part is learning Adamic . There are no living humans who still speak it, and no written records of the language. There are a few ways to learn it, though. First: find a newborn with the Gift, then raise it to the age of five without any contact with other languages. Ever. The innocence of the child will cause them to naturally speak Adamic, though not anywhere near fluently. But it is, at least, a start. By the age of 5, that innocence is lost and the child will need to learn Adamic formally, as anyone else does.

Option two: Reconstruct the language from contemporary sources. You'll want to head back to the Tower of Babel for this, to discover the languages that Adamic was shattered into. Of course, hunting for ancient Babylon will not be easy - the place is located in the desert outside Baghdad, and it'll be a hunt to find. Plus Xerxes and Alexander the Great may have destroyed a good part of it, along with all people of the area, who stole the stones for building. Oh, and there's an Infernal pit and regio containing two chained angels, Harut and Marut, who hang upside down in penance for their sin. Also, the Mongols are in the area and unlikely to be friendly. In the next 15 years, they plan to turn the entire area into a staging camp. Still, hunting in Babel might find evidence of the original four languages: Semitic, named for Noah's son Shem and from which Hebrew, Aramaic and Arabic grew, Hamitic, named for Noah's son Ham and from which Egyptian and Coptic descend, Scythian, descended from Noah's son Japheth and ancestor to Slavic, Baltic and Persian, and the unnamed fourth language, perhaps rightly called Cainite, which is ancestor to Greek, Latin and the Germanic languages. You're going to want to learn at least two of these ancient tongues via linguistic research, then study ancient Mesopotamia so that you can use that to reconstruct Adamic from those two (or more) tongues.

Option three: Seek out the Garden of Eden. The inhabitants still speak Adamic, and so it can be learned there. Biblical scholars know that Eden lies at the meeting of four rivers: the Psion, the Gihon, the Hideikkel and the Euphrates. Of those, only the Euphrates is still used. But hey, find those four rivers' meeting point and you will find a hidden Divine regio containing Eden. Now you have to get to the Garden. To do that, you havee to pass the guardians. They will not allow any human being to enter the Garden, nor any reptiles, who are kin to Serpents. Any attempt to fight them will just get you kicked out of the regio. Of course, non-humans and non-reptiles may enter and leave the place freely. So, turn yourself into an animal. You must remain in that shape for the entire time of your visit. Oh, and don't be a faerie or infernal being - they can't come in, either. All faeries are banned, for the fae are essentially intertwined with humans. All infernal beings are banned as Serpent-kin. Divine beings, however, may enter or leave freely.

So, you're inside the Garden of Eden now. It's a timeless paradise of animals and plants, where no one ever hungers or thirsts, is never in want for anything and all is peaceful. Magi who enter lose the Gift while within the Garden, and so are not offensive to animals but also may not do magic. Any active magic remains going, though. All animals within the Garden may speak as humans do, and all the beasts of the Garden speak Adamic and no other tongue. They're still not smart or anything - they're just animals. All animals are friendly, if not tame - they are ambivalent to newcomers, not hostile. They have no real sense of time, and will not remember you if you leave and come back. They know nothing of good or evil, right or wrong, sin or virtue, and have extreme trouble with these concepts. The closest they can get is 'instinctive' - the animals know that it is proper to follow their instincts and improper to act against them. Attacking each other is improper, for example. Befriending the animals may allow you to learn Adamic from them, but they make poor teachers. They need nothing, so there is nothing to offer them for tutelage. They can be threatened, but any attempt to harm them will have you ejected from the Garden. They do, however, like to hear stories of their descendants outside the Garden, and may well help out if they believe you're related to them. Otherwise, you're stuck learning Adamic solely by exposure, which is a very slow process.

Oh, and you should be careful. There are two trees within the Garden that you might well be interested in. One is a pomegranate tree, the other a fig. The former is the Tree of Knowledge, the latter the Tree of Life. All the native animals know never to touch these trees and will warn you not to touch them as well. If you do, they will shun you, and the only way to find the trees is to ignore them and explore alone. The scent of the fruits is overwhelming and irresistable to intelligent beings, calling to all desires, both virtuous and base. It requires great willpower to resist the smell of the fruits. Anyone who eats of either tree is immediately removed from the Garden, along with every animal of the same species. Such beasts, like humans and reptiles, will never more be allowed into Eden.

Should you eat of the Tree of Knowledge, different effects happen depending on what you are. A beast becomes fully intelligent. A normal human is given the Gift. The Gifted are warped by powerful magic. Those who eat of the Tree of Life immediately fall into a deep sleep from which it may be very hard to awaken. Once they do awaken, however, they become magical beings, no longer mortal and human. In either case, actually, you don't become human. As soon as you eat the fruit, you are permanently locked in the form you were in - that is now your true form. Sure, you can use magic to change your shape, but your natural form is that of the animal you were at the time.

Last option: there actually is one being left on Earth who speaks Adamic. His name is Cain, firstborn son of Adam, and he is cursed by God for murdering his brother, marked and doomed to wander the earth. You could learn it from Cain. Of course, some say Cain was twisted by the Mark, becoming a monster the feasts on flesh and blood. Some say the mark of Cain is, instead, a physical mark - the sign of the Cross burned on the forehead. Others say it is a metaphysical quality, which makes Cain seem to have an aura of evil and monstrous features, which keep others from getting near. It is not clear to Biblical scholars who Cain's wife was or where she came from - she just kind of appears in the Bible. But he did have a son, Enoch, and many daughters. No one is entirely sure where they lived. Some suggest that the Roman god Vulcan was a descendant of Cain, for one of Cain's great-great-grandchildren with Lilith was Lamech, who had a son named Tubalcain who was a smith. 'B' and 'V' were often used interchangeably in early European languages. So perhaps Vulcan might know where Cain is. Lamech, incidentally, tried to kill his father by shooting him in the heart. For his troubles, he was given the curse of Cain, but more severely transformed. He became a wild beast and is not mentioned again.

But okay, you need to find Cain. Cain is a shadow of himself, neither living nor dead, neither damned nor saved. He became, in fact, a faerie, a creature of darkness and death. His original curse was a form of faerie blood, and when Cain was murdered, he became a true faerie creature, perhaps the first dark faerie. Part of Cain's curse is that there are seven shadows of Cain that wander the world, each slightly different, each terrible and frightening. All of them are Cain, and know what he knew when he died. They want what he wanted. So while there is but one Cain, he can be in seven places at once, and this is the sevenfold vengeance of the Bible. Cain's aspects usually travel alone, but may come together to create a more potent whole, and always do so when they meet. Each fragment of Cain has its own focus for why it kills - the Wrathful Cain kills for vengeance, while the Fearful Cain kills from ambush out of terror. Adamic is the only language in which Cain is fluent; otherwise he speaks a garble of dialects and tongues that never makes much sense. Convincing Cain to teach Adamic is difficult, for he is petty and vengeful, and a poor teacher. Still, some schoalrs say Cain does possess a soul, for God did not damn him for his sins but give him the Mark of Cain instead. Perhaps, then, Cain can still be saved from damnation. If Cain could be made to understand and believe this, he might well teach you Adamic in exchange for hearing his confessions. (He might even enjoy the chance to brag about his deeds.)

On the other hand, maybe you'll need to force Cain to cooperate. He is susceptible to Divine things and the Dominion, so capturing him and threatening him with them will make him shriek in terror and perhaps help you. The touch of a relic burns him like fire, and the torture will make him yield...though it will earn you an immortal, terrible foe. But don't kill Cain. Anyone who kills Cain inherits his curse, becoming a twisted creature like him. Also he'll come back to life anyway. Eventually.

And that's why they made Cain a faerie.

Next time: Canaanite Necromancy

Canaanite Necromancy

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Ancient Magic

In the ancient land of Canaan, there was a tradition of necromancy. Even after the Israelites conquered it, the necromancers continued their existence in the city of En-Dor, until the purge of the prophets and witches conducted by King Saul. This is common knowledge among the educated - after all, it's in the Bible. First Samuel talks about it. However, the details of the tradition have been lost to time. You see, Saul and the prophet Samuel had a great struggle, and to get rid of Samuel, Saul purged all prophets and magicians in the land, killing every Canaanite necromancer save for one. When the final days of his reign came, though, he needed her advice to try and divine the will of God by summoning the spirit of the prophet Samuel. And so he went to Zephaniah, the Witch of En-Dor, last of the necromancers. The ghost refused to help Saul, of course, and as it predicted, Saul was defeated the next day by the Philistines, and David became the next King of Israel.

The Canaanite necromancers practiced an ancient art that allowed them to communicate with, command and summon the dead, replicating the effects of many Hermetic spells. Despite the Biblical prohibitions of necromancy, the Canaanite magicians were neither Divine nor Infernal - they were magical, though the Goetic arts offer an Infernal variant on their power. A Hermetic might well study under Zephaniah or someone she taught to try and integrate the power of Canaanite Necromancy , though it would hardly be an easy task. It should be understood - there were never any texts on necromancy. The Canaanites practiced a purely oral magical tradition. Should a magus manage to complete the theory, however, they would unlock the power to target any dead spirit with their magic, gain a permanent Arcane Connection to all dead people everywhere and get all the benefits of that. Unfortunately, there are downsides: the connection both ways, for one, though few ghosts have the power to take advantage of it. Second, the dead can always sense a necromancer. Any dead spirit or ghost will know when you get within seven miles and may easily track you in that range.

So, who counts as dead? "The dead" is defined as any mortal man, woman or child that has died but has not yet entered Heaven. (Samuel, in the days of Saul, could be summoned because it was not until the coming of Christ that Heaven was opened even to the saints, who prior to that had dwelled beneath the earth.) Mortals in Hell or Purgatory count, as do those that die in Faerie or Magic realms, and any and all ghosts of any kind. Magi in Final Twilight, those who become faeries and those who become magical beings do not count . Canaanite necromancy also cannot interact with dead animals, just humans. Fae, angels, demons and magical creatures never count, living or dead. Those who reside in Heaven cannot be touched, but those who receive a Divine burial can be, if they have not yet entered Heaven. It is slightly more dangerous, but possible. The immunity to necromancy granted by the Last Rites is, after all, only a flaw in Hermetic theory, which does not exist in Canaanite magical theory.

as a note, there are still some problems in dealing with ghosts. The ancient dead are not going to speak your language, and even when you get past that language barrier, they often are simply unable to even comprehend modern concepts such as new nations, modern magical theory and so on. They also tend to resent being disturbed, so you will often have to force them to cooperate. Sadly, Canaanite necromancy also provides no clear answers on the nature of the afterlife - the dead cannot communicate any information on the afterlife, save for who is in it. Possibly this is a flaw in both Hermetic and Canaanite theory.

But how will you learn this, when every Canaanite necromancer is dead? Well, the last necromancer, Zephaniah, did leave a ghost. She resides still in fallen En-Dor, within a hidden regio in the ruins. En-Dor is somewhere on Mount Hermon, near the town of Tiberias on the shores of Lake Tiberias or the Sea of Galilee. This is relatively well-known, and the area around En-Dor has been the site of pilgrimages. However, it is under Muslim control these days. Unfortunately, it's hard to tell which pilgrimage site actually is En-Dor, and finding it will take time. It would be wise to study the lore of Canaan and the Holy Land first, to make finding En-Dor easier. Fortunately, several books exist on the subject, though many may need a rabbi's help to get ahold of, and probably some literacy in ancient Hebrew unless you can get a translated copy of the Mishnas.

But let's assume you've found En-Dor. The lower bounds of the regio are abandoned, save for a single old man named Roland of Toulouse, who has been living the area since the 1180s. He prays three times a day and survives solely on the water of the stream of En-Dor, which acts as a longevity enhancer to those who drink it. (The water also contains Divine vis.) Roland knows of a cave nearby that is home to "an old Jewish woman" whom he's tried to speak with, but always failed because she speaks only Hebrew and he's bad at Hebrew. The cave is actually the way to get further into the regio. The cave leads into a valley, which can only be entered or left via the cave - the regio does not allow any other ways out or in. There are no living inhabitants, but several dozen ghosts - the Canaanite necromancers killed by Saul, including Zephaniah, the witch of En-Dor. They appear at night, and she leads them. She is not hostile, but is fiercely protective of her friends, the ghosts, despite the fact that they are essentially mindless. She still treats them as loved and respected relatives and colleagues who have gone senile, and will not appreciate attempts to harvest them for vis.

Zephaniah knows nothing of the Order, though she would be quite interested in it and might well ask magi to protect her and En-Dor, thanks to the trauma of the purge. She would happily offer tutelage in necromancy in return for such protection, and En-Dor would honestly make a good location for a covenant. The necromancy would be a great political uproar for the Order, as many magi attempt to confirm the death of various historic figures of the Order who vanished mysteriously (Tytalus, for example), while House Tremere would likely take it as a threat - they already burn their dead and dispose of them such that no one can try to call them up by normal Hermetic methods, so they cannot be used to threaten the House. They won't appreciate that being changed. Many nobles might well want the Order to help them correct succession problems by calling up the dead. House Guernicus, rightly or wrongly, might fear Schism War survivors trying to call up the ghosts of the leadership of House Diedne, and might well fear the resurrection of ancient conflicts by this new power. They might even try to extend the definition of 'scrying' to cover dead magi and their ghosts, making it illegal to call them up. Some might even go so far as to try and get Wizard's Marches called on the new necromancers.

Next time: Defixio Magic

Defixio Magic

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Ancient Magic

Defixio Magic does not derive from the Bible. Rather, it dates back to ancient cults in Greece and Rome, who could use curses without needing Arcane Connections. Most of them worshipped the underworld gods, Hecate, Pluto and Proserpina, but some also worshipped Ceres and Minerva. By the second century, these cults had largely died out. To do their magic, the cultists produced defixiones, small magical devices that name or describe the target of the curse, the effects of the curse and the trigger of the curse. It could be used on anyone they could name, and the curse could wait until a specific trigger.

Hermetic magi will find much of use in defixio magic, and can learn of it by mentions in Pliny's bestiaries, Plato's works or the history of Tacitus. House Tremere has some familiarity with the concept, though they exclusively use it to bind spirits with lead tablets. The study of the defixiones might allow for the ability to hold spells naturally in abeyance until a condition is met, or the ability to target ritual magic over an unlimited range, requiring only sympathetic connections rather than Arcane Connections. The latter is by far the more wide-reaching and powerful of the two, and the one that will be more opposed by, say, House Tremere looking to hold and keep their monopoly.

Now, you can in theory learn Defixio magic on its own, without Hermetic usage. However, each cult of Defixio users only did a specific type of magic - equivalent to one or two Form combinations, so the Ceres cult did Creo Mentem, the Hecate cult Perdo Corpus and Animal, the Minerva cult Rego Corpus/Animal, and so on. The magic is easier to do if you have Arcane Connections and know the target's full name, but it can be done with just the full name, a nickname or psuedonym or even just a description. Which can even be open-ended, though that's not easy at all. And of course baptismal, Rabbinical or otherwise religiously-granted names can't be used.

So, where are you going to find defixiones to study? Well, first you need to know what they are. The most common form is the curse tablet, a tablet usually made of lead though occasionally other materials, transfixed by a nail and hidden in a suitable location, like your target's grave or a temple to Hecate. There are also silhouettes, molded lead statuettes hammer flat by heavy weights and then left in a hard-to-get-to place. They were more commonly used by the Cult of Hecate. Ceres and Proserpina cultists preferred to make wax or clay figurines. In addition, there was an oral component used to empower the defixio, and these rituals were often recorded in texts, which may still exist. Such texts are hardly useful to the modern scholar save as a basis for further investigation, however, or in combination with a defixio. The greatest sources of such texts are Toledo (where the Church sponsors translations of ancient artifacts, though it destroys those used solely for magic), Egypt (where the texts exist inside Moorish libraries, deep in Islamic territory) and the Tremere archives (where the Tremere demand something in trade for access).

The Cult of Pluto used defixiones to command ghosts, and other curses were placed in graves as well. Thus, ancient Roman and Greek graves may make good sources of defixiones. Of course, such graves are often guarded by vengeful ghosts thanks to the defixiones, but...well, that's a challenge for you to solve. The good news is that most gravesites of Rome actually aren't in the city proper any more, so magic is much easier than if you'd attempted it inside the highly Dominion-controlled city of Rome. The Roman catacombs may also contain some defixiones in the Christian and Jewish graves within. Of course, the catacombs are also home to the Covenant known as Vardian's Tomb, a group of necromancers who harvest the defixiones for vis and will not be happy if you try to steal them. They are also home to the Spectres, a group of bandits who pretend to be ghosts and have no qualms about murder.

Another place you might check are the lost chthonic temples of Pluto, Ceres and Hecate. They were usually in isolated locations, and all were used as depositing spots for defixiones. The Tremere and the Witches of Thessaly are the most likely to know of their locations, though getting in without specific directions is usually very difficult. The example given by the book is a cave complex in Greece, guarded by spirits bound by the Defixio. The Theban covenant Erebos harvests the bats of the cave for vis but have not gone deeper for fear of the traps within. However, they are not willing to give up the resources of the cave either, not without compensation, perhaps in the form of negotiations with the Daughters of Erictho, foes of the Order who once held the cave complex and used it. They are a group of non-Order Witches of Thessaly in the area.

Next time: Fertility magic.

Fertility Magic

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Cyberpapacy, because that name is so great.

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Ancient Magic

Fertility Magic is millenia old - older than anyone can remember, older than any written history. The fertility cults of Europe uses rituals and spells to influence conception and unborn children, promoting desirable traits. Remains of the cult, in the form of strange fetish statuettes carved to resemble a wide-hipped pregnant woman, can occasionally be found in caves, though few even recognize them as cult artifacts, and often confuse them with relics of other practices, to be harvested for vis. In fact, other than the fetishes and a few cave paintings, there is nearly no record of the fertility rituals, and it is unclear who the ancient cults were, and whether they were wiped out or assimilated at some point, though in either case it was before Rome ever marched through Europe. They may have even predated the Deluge, a fact that is suggested by the commoness of shells and the bones of sea creatures within the caves that fertility fetishes are often found in. It's possible they were unconnected, disparate cults rather than one monolithic cult - even likely, given the wide distribution these caves have. Their original practices cannot be recovered - there isn't nearly enough evidence of them to try.

However, a Hermetic might be able to rebuild some of the fertility rituals by studying fetishes and cave paintings. Eventually, this might lead to two breakthroughs: first, a study of fertility and the lore of fertility that would allow for prediction of pregnancies and determination of lineal descent and degree of blood relation. This could then be used to develop ritual fertility magic, allowing Hermetic spells to target unborn children as entities of their own rather than part of the mother - extending Hermetic magic's ability to target them even before the second trimeseter, when they become developed enough for magic to recognize them as, well, part of the mother.

This ritual magic would also allow for the creation of fertility rituals, allowing the ritualist to devise a ritual that will ensure the child made by a union has certain traits - anything from red hair to the Gift. Such traits need not have any relation to those of the parents - they are simply chosen and ensured by magic. A fertility fetish can be made for a specific fertile woman, and a woman can only make one, as it binds some of her fertility into the fetish. The fetish is a permanent Arcane Connection to the woman and to any children conceived via rituals the incorporate the fetish. At any time, the fetish may be destroyed and the vis extracted from it, as with the ancient fetishes. However, if this is done, the woman is rendered infertile. Fortunately, these things keep indefinitely. The thing can even be used again for further children...though it is only perfectly safe to do so if the original child dies. The reckless may use a fertility fetish again anyway, causing warping in the ritualist and the child. A child made via such a corrupt ritual has a sympathetic tie to the predecessor, and also gets a penalty to all social interactions, as anyone can perceive instinctively that something about them is not quite right. They are also warped by the ritual over time, though all effects end should the original child ever die.

Now, the real trick is getting enough information to learn about and develop these fertility rituals. You see, most ancient fetishes were destroyed after the child was conceived and the mother passed beyond childbearing age, in order to protect the mother and child from the Arcane Connection. Those that remain are in isolated cave systems, as are surviving cave paintings. Finding a suitable cave system will not be easy, though fortunately they all follow roughly the same layout. A typical cave might have one or two surviving fetishes. The cave paintings are more interesting to magi - they depict, crudely, fertility rituals in practice. However, the paintings themselves are artifacts of the cult - a reproduction will not be worth studying. The magic is tied up on the stone, the texture, the cracks. You either need to study them in the cave, or bodily remove the entire painting and the stone it is on to your lab.

And this is all before you deal with the dangers of these cave systems. Anyone or anything might be living in them - while most are utterly unaware of the power of these caves and the ancient cults, they're nice caves to live in. Some are inhabited by fairies, particularly the duergar, a race of dwarf-fairies known for their maliciousness and their smithing skills. Others are whom to ancient worms, great dragon-serpents of immense size and hunger. These creatures tend to care more for their own survival than anything else, but that hardly means they're easy to negotiate with. Many are barely smart enough to negotiate with. Still other caves are flooded and airless, or home to the graves of saints and thus guarded by the Church, who will have little interest in allowing magi to poke around in these tombs.

The Order would not be shaken to its core by fertility magic, but there might well be those who seek out the knowledge once created. Perhaps a Bonisagus seeks to breed a line of the Gifted with interesting traits. Perhaps nobles seek you out to help commission an heir. Perhaps a Mercere magus wants to use it as a starting point to develop rituals to do the same for horses, developing new breeds for the Redcaps to ride. Perhaps some covenant seeks the knowledge to breed perfect servants. Perhaps the Church learns of the rituals and becomes involved, fearing a rise in paganism or an explosion of Gifted children.

Next time: The magic of the Grigori.

Grigorian Magic

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Ancient Magic

In the days before the Deluge, beings of great power walked the earth. Their offspring were the gigantic Nephillim. Genesis calls these creatures the b'nai elohim, the sons of God. Before the fifth century, they were interpreted to be angels - 'b'nai elohim' is used only to refer to angels in the Old Testament. However, this view was used to attack Church philosophy and Saint Paul warned against the worship of angels, and Jesus claimed that angels did not marry or have children. So these days, the Church says that the b'nai elohim of Genesis were the descendants of Seth, the third child of Adam and Eve, and the sinful "daughters of man" whom they consorted with were the descendants of Cain.

This orthodox view conflicts with some early Church texts, but the Church says those were contaminated by Jews and heretics, and they are no longer in the canon. The single passage of Genesis is the Church's only acknowledgement of the Nephillim, and even they obscure it as mere giants. Other texts preserve the old interpretation, though, including the works that are called the First Book of Enoch, allegedly written by Noah's grandfather, who ascended into Heaven and became the Metatron. First Enoch covers many subjects, but the first section is the Book of the Watchers, which goes into great detail on the Nephilim than Genesis and explicitly calls their parents angels. First Enoch, as a note, is the correct one.

Enoch claims that the Grigori, the Watchers, did far more than father children. They taught their wives art and science, how to cut stone, do agriculture and astronomy, how to work metal. More importantly, they taught their wives the secrets of magic, and their wives taught others. Many were not ready for the power of magic and used the Secrets of the Grigori for evil. They became powerful emperors and forgot the ways of God. The Nephilim were born and laid waste to the earth with their horrific appetites, such that the earth itself cried out for respite. And so God told Noah to build the ark. He stripped the Grigori of their place in Heaven and seized their leaders, to bind them until the Day of Judgment. Some, including the leader of the Grigori, Samyaza, rebelled and became demons. The Flood wiped out all who knew the secrets of their magic, and killed all but two righteous Nephilim, who hid aboard the ark. With the leaders of the Grigori bound and their students gone, the magic of the Grigori passed from the earth.

The precise nature of it is unknown, but strands of it exist in Hermetic tradition; indeed, the magic of the Grigori appears to be little different than that of Hermetic theory. It is this that makes their secrets so valuable. Each of the chiefs of the Grigori taught mastery of one Technique and two Forms, and those who learned these arts could blend them in ways that the Order cannot. Araquiel's Secret, for example, allowed those who learned it to cast magic of Creo, Corpus and Terram - and, more importantly for Hermetics, to use the vis of those Arts interchangeably. One who knows Araquiel's Secret can use Creo vis for all Terram or Corpus spells, and vice versa, as well as ignoring Terram requisites on Creo or Corpus spells, or vice versa. There is a drawback, of course: Grigori magic is weak against both Divine and Infernal influence, and so use of it in Divine or Infernal auras makes magical botches much, much worse.

Study of Grigori magic is intriguing for magi, for it may eventually allow original research to surpass the Limit of Vis, perhaps even allowing all vis to be used no matter what Art it is for, and resolving the weakness in Grigori magic that makes it so susceptible to outside influence. Nineteen chiefs of the Grigori are named by Enoch, and ten have their powers listed. Araquiel taught Creo, Terram and Corpus. Armaros taught Rego, Imaginem and Vim. Azael taught Perdo, Terram and Imaginem. Baraqijal and Kokabel both taught Intellego, Mentem and Imaginem. Ezeqeel taught Muto, Aquam and Auram. Sariel taught Perdo, Mentem and Ignem. Semyza taught Creo, Corpus and Herbam. Shamsiel taught Rego, Ignem and Vim. It is unknown what the secrets of Rameel, Tamlel, Ramlel, Danel, Batarel, Ananel, Zaqiel, Satarel, Turel or Jomjael were.

But how will you find the secrets of the Grigori? The Deluge destroyed most of them. Still, just because First Enoch is not canon doesn't mean it's gone, and it is quoted by many sources in the historic world. Finding these histories and perhaps even a copy of the Book of Watchers will be the first step in discovering that their power exists, perhaps triggered by an interest in the Nephilim mentioned by Genesis. A further set of two books, the Enigma of the Sons of God, will also be useful. It was a work of Saint Nerius, which extensively quotes Enoch as well as Nerius' understanding of the Grigori and their nature. Nerius' first book covers how he was confused by the Sethite interpretation of the Church, blaming it on the demonic Grigori trying to obscure their own origins, and his book is a convincing text on the nature of the Grigori and the Dominion. The Order has several copies of the book. The second book of the set is more interesting - a complete copy of the Book of the Watchers, with annotations by Nerius. This one is much, much harder to find. Only three copies ever existed, and the one contained in the library of Durenmar vanished last century. The other two are located in parts unknown.

Of course, the Hebrew Apocrypha may also give some leads. The Book of Jubilees tells of Kainam, father of the Chaldeans, who found the Stelae of the Watchers, stone obelisks that contained much of their lost wisdom. Saint Nerius' second book talks about them, noting that legend gave their location as near Mount Hermon near the Sea of Galilee. The lower slopes of Hermon are free of Grigori artifacts, and the upper slopes are capped in snow much of the year. However, near the summit, an ancient Nephilim city exists, long since abandoned. It is built for giants, far larger than any modern man, and at its heart are three stone obelisks which tell the story of the coming of the Grigori and their teachings. The obelisks would be extremely valuable to study, especially for those that have the blood of the Nephilim in their veins.

And of course the Watchers still exist. Their leader, Semyaza, was bound "into the valleys of the earth" by Michael the Archangel, while Azael, one of the chiefs, was cast into a pit in the desert and covered in sharp rocks by Raphael. Many more became demons, and some accepted their punishment and remained angels. Saint Nerius records that the monks of Mount Ararat have a legend which states that when the flood receded, Noah and his family were careful to avoid the northern face of Ararat, for God told them not to go there. Nerius says that stones similar to those of Mount Hermon were found there. The truth, you see, is that some of the students of the Grigori attempted magic to save themselves in the Deluge, but were powerless. Some hid with the Nephilim on Mount Hermon, but they drowned in the waters that rose to meet them. And as they drowned, their teachers were imprisoned. In desperation, Shamsiel led his followers to Mount Ararat, but it became clear that they, too, would drown. Finally, on the fortieth day of rain, Michael appeared to imprison Shamsiel, and Shamsiel he deserved it. He appealed to God for mercy to those who had not sinned as he had. Let those who only took human wives but did not teach them magic be spared, to continue to serve the Lord, he asked. God agreed, and only those Grigori who had taught mankind magic were imprisoned. The rest would only be cast from Heaven, to walk the earth as angels.

Saint Jacob was the 4th century bishop who climbed Ararat to find the ark, but every attempt he made to climb the northern slope was foiled by storms. Finally, a pair of angels appeared to him, giving him a plank of the Ark and telling him to stop his search. Jacob thanked them and founded the monastery of Ararat that now bears his name. Anyone trying to retrace his steps most deal with storms, loose rocks and ice, for the mountain itself does ot wish Shamsiel's prison to be uncovered. Near the peak, on the northern ridge, there is a single stone carved with the True Names of the Grigori who did not Fall. Anyone who reads the True Name of Shamsiel aloud while within five paces of the stone will be transported to the regio in which Shamsiel is imprisoned. This regio covers the entire northern face of the mountain, and within it is a gorge two miles deep and a mile wide, where dwells Shamsiel. He may not leave the regio, and is a mere shell of his former self. He does not hate God or his servants, and he has accepted his punishment, though believes he will be cast in the lake of fire when the Day of Judgment comes. He is a master of magic still, and will teach his secret to anyone who promises to use it for holy purposes. When he was cast down, you see, God told him that one day the world would be ready for magic, and that any pious wizard who sought him out was worthy of his teachings. It takes a full year of study under Shamsiel to receive his secrets, and doing so will always make you a pious person.

But that is not the only prison. Near Jerusalem, on the edge of the desert, there is Beth Hadudo, the crack down which the Jews pushed the "goat for Azael" on the Day of Atonement, as instructed by Leviticus. Saint Nerius explains that 'hadudo' is Hebrew for 'rocky peak', coming from the word dudael, 'rocky place of the Lord'. Here is the prison of the Grigori Azael. Unknown to Nerius and other writers, Azael is not like Shamsiel - he did not accept punishment or imprisonment lightly. He Fell, and even now he broods, seeking vengeance on God and the world. The regio that contains him is Infernal, and the easiest way in is to release a goat from the peak. Azael cannot resist goats, and will draw them into the regio, opening it for others for several minutes. Azael, of course, cannot leave. Within, the landscape is harsh, covered in the bones of goats and the soot of Azael's forge, where he labors each day crafting weapons. Azael will eagerly teach his secrets to anyone who is willing to spend a year learning them and will promise to spread wickedness with them. However, this power he grants is corrupted by the Infernal.

As for the other Grigori, no clue has been left as to their prisons. However, some of the Grigori who did not teach magic still walk the earth as angels, though they are barred from Heaven. These are those saved by Shamsiel. They could never teach the Secrets of the Grigori and cannot now, but they do know of the city of the Nephilim and of Shamsiel's prison, and may tell a worthy magus. It was one of these Grigori that inspired Nerius to write his books, and they are known to leave the first of the two books where a pious magus might find them. With enough study of the city and perhaps the aid of Shamsiel, the full Secrets of the Grigori might yet be revealed.

Next time: The Mechanica of Heron of Alexandria.


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Ancient Magic

Alexandria was home to one of the greatest natural philosophers of all time: Heron, a Neo-Platonist who formed an order of mechanic-magicians, known as the Mechanicians. Heron states that all mechanical devices have both a theoretical and manual part, with the theoretical being composed of the necessary geometry, math, physics and astronomy needed to design it and the manual being the metalwork, architecture, carpentry and so on needed to build it. The Mechanicians used the mix of these parts to create wonderful devices, mechanica , such as the singing nightingale of Justinian. Because their magic required a lot of money and education, the Mechanicians were rare even in their prime, and as Christianity grew, their Neo-Platonic thought made them persecuted. By the fifth century, the Mechanicians had died out. Much of their knowledge was lost when the Eastern Empire of the fourth century suppressed Heron's works as heretical. Centuries later, of course, the Church would embrace Heron as it did Aristotle, preserving some remnants of Mechanician lore.

However, the secrets of Heron remain largely unknown to the Order at large; if magi think of him at all, they believe him to have been a mundane philosopher, for the secret magic lore was corrupted by copies of his texts. It is believed that his magical constructs were jsut rumors. However, magi with access to uncorrupted versions of Heron's texts might be able to unlock the secrets of the mechanica. Most of the texts are common but in corrupt form, used as study tools for geometry, astronomy and mathematics. Few scribes who copied them possessed the knowledge to preserve the hidden magical lore within. The mechanica themselves were always rare, but a few might have survived as art pieces. The practice of making them died out nearly a thousand years ago, and most mechanica are older even than that, and probably broken. While repair of them is impossible without working knowledge of Heron's theories, they might be studied to gain insight into those theories.

House Verditius, of course, maintains a stranglehold on the secret of creating automata and complex magical devices. They would, if they knew of them, quite love to gain the secret of Heron's mechanica, both to preserve their monopoly and improve their techniques. They would hate anyone who learned and spread the secrets outside their House. Of course, other groups would much love to learn the secrets, too - perhaps for just that reason, to break the monopoly Verditius holds on the most complex enchantment.

Understanding and integrating Heron's mechanica would be very valuable. Heron's devices did not require vis to use, though his own theories limited him to Creo, Rego, Perdo, Muto, Auram, Aquam, Ignem. Mentem and Terram. Of course, the mechanica could not handle spells that required vis, nor any with great range, and money was always needed to get the resources used to make the mechanica. However, a skilled Mechanician could alter the powers of a mechanica by tinkering with it, and their ultimate techniques allowed their devices to be awakened, made sentient and living, provided it had the form of a living creature, by tapping into the inner nature, or anima, of the mechanica. These devices, called simulacra, would create magical beings, though without having the power instilled in them they could not move or speak. Still, they could possess more magical powers than normal mechanica.

Study of Heron's true theories might allow a magus to learn how to make mutable devices, enchanted items that can be altered to have different powers. Under Hermetic theory, this would still require vis, but significantly less than creating an item whole cloth would. Building on that, a magus might discover how to Awaken devices, using vis rather than the complex constructions of Heron to turn a device intelligent. Unlike Heron's simulacra, these devices would be usable as Familiars. With further research, they might even become compatible with the automata created by House Verditius.

But where can you find the legacy of Heron? First, you will want original Greek copies of Heron's works. Automata, Automaton Theatre, Catoptrica, Dioptra, Metrica and Pneumatica are all valuable and rare texts, especially in the original Greek. All copies translated into Arabic and Latin are corrupt, lacking the magical lore that could be gleaned from the originals. Finding intact pieces of Heron's work would also be very valuable, and a few do still survive, though most are broken or destroyed. Certainly the trail might begin in Constinople, for Emperor Justinian certainly did employ Mechanicians, if he was not one himself. One of the Latin clerics in the city possesses the only uncorrupted copy of Heron's work in the city - a well-preserved Greek copy of Automata. However, he won't give it up without a king's ransom in silver, citing its 'blasphemous' nature. The book, however, also contains clues to the tomb of Hypatia of Alexandria, one of the finest mechanicians, and her equally skilled father, Theon, in one of the Temples of Serapis. What makes this valuable is that the account states that she was buried with texts salvaged from the Library of Alexandria.

Alexandria and Egypt are still in the throes of the Fifth Crusade, and will remain so until the Crusaders are defeated in 1221. Unfortunately, the locals only speak Arabic and Coptic, so finding the Temple of Serapis may be troublesome. Hypatia was the daughter of one of the last Librarians, Theon of Alexandria, and she was well-known as a lecturer. Some even say she invented the astrolabe. However, being both female and pagan, she was not well-liked by the Church, and after Saint Cyril overthrew the Alexandrian government, she was beaten to death by a mob in 415 AD. Finding the Temple in which she was buried won't be easy, though her ghost supposedly still haunts the area. Entering the temple is hard, as it can only be done when the Dominion is weak, allowing the regio to open. And once you're in, Hypatia's ghost will lock you in and probably assault you with the mechanica inside, which can shoot fire or lightning or other things. She has lost all reason, and merely wishes to destroy intruders, particularly those bearing Christian symbols.

Still, defeating Hypatia will allow the Temple to be plundered...though care should be taken, for the Mechanicians did trap the place. Still, there are many high-quality scrolls of Heron's works around, plus some broken mechanica that might be studied, or at least used for valuable material. Many of the scrolls in the tomb itself were destroyed by Hypatia's rage, sadly, though some relics of the Library might have survived. Further, the Temple is home to Heron's masterpiece, his greatest mechanica: Heron's Theatre. It is an automated mechanical theatre that, when properly cared for, can show its own stories. Once per month, it is capable of predicting the future. The effect seems to break the Limit of Time and makes no sense to Hermetic theory, so investigating it is quite difficult, but potentially very worthwhile for a magus interested in divination.

Of course, there are many groups who may take umbrage at your search. The magi of Constantinople often do not appreciate outsiders, particularly those from the Crusaders' homelands. And any magi who get wind of your search may start racing you to the prize as best they can, once they realize what it is. Further, the Shadhali Brotherhood of Alexandria are a group of Sufi mystics who know that the Temple of Serapis was a pagan temple...but if they learn that it contains lore from the Library of Alexandria, they may want to take charge of it. They're potent warriors and not especially fond of magicians, but they may prove useful allies if approached sufficiently humbly.

Next time: The Hesperides


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Ancient Magic

The quest for the Hesperides is less trouble than it might seem. You see, most magi have heard of Claudius Ptolemaeus, who codified the movements of the planets and the names of the stars. He invented the gnomon and the globe. And those magi interested in astronomy or geography know that Ptolemy did much more. He devised a system to precisely measure the location of any place on the surface of the earth. Every location is expressed by two values: one measuring how far north and one how far east the place is from the origin point, somewhere southwest of Europe. A magus who understood Ptolemy's Coordinates could use them as Arcane Connections to the sites they designate. Ptolemy published his techniques and about 8000 coordinates in a seven-volume work named The Geography. Unfortunately, the last complete version of the text was burned with the Library of Alexandria. Small sections circulate, containing coordinates that cannot yet be used. House Mercere has placed a standing offer of 100 pawns of vis for a complete copy of The Geography, and magi who know that it contains the exact locations of hundreds of ancient magical sites might be unwilling to sell it at that price.

House Bonisagus history records that Trianoma found Bonisagus with the advice of the dragon within the Garden of the Hesperides. That dragon, Ladon, was visited in 1160 by an Arabic cartographer, and the dragon arranged for several flawed copies of The Geography to be made in Europe, encouraging magi to reconstruct it. The Coordinates of Ptolemy will not revolutionize the Order, though they are Arcane Connections that take the form of information and so can be shared without being lost. They function by the Law of Names rather than the Law of Contagion. Use of the Coordinates would make magical travel relatively safe and easy compared to now, and might better allow the Order to withdraw from mundane society even more. They would also be useful for military matters.

Of course, first you need to know how to use them. To do so, you must learn to measure the array of fixed stars by astrological observation. The method is included in Ladon's corrupted Geography. It takes about a season to learn. Second, you must turn those measurements into coordinates. To do this, you must first calibrate the system by observing the array of fixed stars at the zero point: the Garden of the Hesperides, on the island of Jutonia in the Purple Islands, in the future known as the Canary Islands. See, most stars don't really move relative to each other, and they form a pattern that can be measured along the horizon. This pattern, the array of fixed stars, looks a little different in every location. The flawed copies of the Geography describe how to quantify this. If you know the array at the origin point, you can compare it to the current array, determining the coordinates of your location via the math involved. Doing this requires four hours of stellar observation, or two hours if you have a supernaturally accurate timepiece, though Ptolemy did not know that. You also need astronomical tools and four hours of careful calculation after (or two hours with a copy of Ptolemy's Greatest Compilation). Complete and uncorrupted copies of the Geography also contain the Handy Tables, a revision of Ptolemy's earlier math, which is faster and more accurate, requiring only one hour of work. However, it is impossible to derive new points without an observation of the origin's array of fixed stars. Ladon has deliberately engineered this to encourage people to visit his lair. (Note that once a point is calculated, it is perfectly usable at any time, whether you can see the stars or not.) Certain mystery cults allow for spells that can perform stellar measurements for you, as well, but these still require you to know the array for the origin point.

Now, it's possible to learn Coordinates from others, including Ptolemy. The Geography lists, in complete form, about 8000 coordinates, though it notes that they are imprecise, based on observations and descriptions of earlier travellers that Ptolemy extrapolated data from. However, he does provide perfect coordinates for Alexandria, and his coordinates for much of the Western Roman Empire are correct within a couple of miles. Those outside the Western Empire are far less accurate; for example, every coordinate he gives for Scotland is wildly incorrect. Ladon's flawed copies include several usable coordinates, to demonstrate the value of the system.

Now, the primary problem here is that the origin point is so far away that, besides a handful of semi-mythical travellers, no one has been there. You could get around this with a composite, though, requiring three stellar readings. To measure the latitude of the Equator, you would just need to compare observations from two points on the same longitude with a known, measured distance of latitude between them. Since the size of the earth is known, it may be used to infer how the star positions would change as you went south. To adjust this for the origin's longitude, you would then need to go to any point on Zero Longitude. The only land on that longitude is the Purple Islands. Attempts to construct a new origin point fail;' mystically, the Purple Islands are the westernmost point on earth, and a new west can no more be assigned than a new north.

Pliny provides information on the Purple Islands - they grow a purple lichen that can be made into valuable dye, but the beaches are plagued by the rotting corpses of monsters. One island has a temple to Juno, filled with doves, but the islands are uninhabited. That does mean that vis-containing creatures have been washing up on the island for centuries undisturbed. Pliny says that another island is home to gigantic buildings but no people. (As it turns out, he's wrong about that.) Hesiod state sthat the golden apples of youth grow on one of the Purple Islands, guarded by the nymphs called Hesperides and the hundred-headed dragon Ladon.

No European has visited the Purple Islands since Idrisi the cartographer in 1160, who was a servant of King Roger of Sicily. It's not easy to sail to, as a result. The African coast must be followed, and that is a haven for pirates, and then a trip over the Atlantic means dealing with sea monsters. And the islands are, in fact, inhabited. The natives, called the Guan, are hospitable and curious, but they can defend themselves. They have no ships, so each island has a seperate dialect and variant religion. The Guan worship a sun god of many names, and many believe in a lesser, evil being that opposes the god. Guan that believe this produce a Dominion aura. On some islands, the Guan claim that there is a third deity, the sun god's wife, Achmayex. These Guan produce a faerie aura. The Guan practice ritual euthanasia of the elderly (always voluntary) and ritual suicide is a form of mourning in some islands. The Guan prefer suicide to surrender or capture.

The Guan are ruled by meceny , wizard-kings who can perform hedge magic. Their magic is very limited, but so long as it follows their ancient ways, it cannot fail. (Such ways require ritual kings and communal ceremony, and the magic is pretty much confined to crop magic, minor weather control and minor necromancy.) There may or may not be other magical groups on the islands, but that's at GM discretion.

In any case, the island Junonia is home to the Hesperides and also to the Ahoare, the Children of Atlas, who are similar to the other Guan but are highly matriarchal. PRoperty descends from the mother's line, a woman may have up to three husbands and women are trained in war. Their kings are still men, but the women are priestesses of the sun god's wife and have much power. Their holy monolith is the gate into the Garden, and the Zero Latitude runs through it. Typically, a visitor must perform some task to be given access. The monolith leads to a regio containing the Garden. The apples of the tree within are full of Creo vis, and if eaten, reduce apparent (but not actual) age by ten years. The trees produce 60 apples a year, total. An apple picked at the perfect instant in the perfect way grants immortality, but Ladon would never share this with anyone, as he does not believe magi to be worthy of that gift. There are other magical trees in the Garden, which Ladon believes are a legacy of the last age of magic.

The three Hesperides, Erytheia, Hespera and Asterope are friends of Ladon, despite his task in keeping them from stealing the apples, because they enjoy his stories. They do not seek worship or have much concern for humans except as aides in their work. They know that Hera no longer collects the apples, but Ladon still defends them, and each of the three has their own idea about what the proper response should be. Each also wants to leave the Garden for a time to pursue their own goals, but fears punishment should the Garden go undefended. One of their sisters, Aegle, might be able to help - she vanished thousands of years ago after an affair with Helios, who dwelt in Sicily in ancient times, or Hesperidia, who sailed away with the tattooed magus that gave Ladon his copy of the Geography so long ago.

Ladon is a hydra with one hundred heads who possesses a copy of The Geography give to him by a Criamon magus seeking True West. He has gotten the nymphs to carve interesting Coordinates into some of the trees, and uses them to scry on locations, gathering amusing tales to tell the nymphs. He'd like to get more, but he cannot leave the island or even the Garden. He is willing to recite the theoretical chapters of the Geography to magi and provide them data on the Zero Longitude, and will then trade vis, information or Ptolemy's coordinates for any freshly discovered coordinates. He will not allow anyone to take the Apples of Hera, but may allow other trees to be harvested for vis.

Long ago, Herakles shot Ladon, and the blood created dragon-trees, which bleed red sap when cut. The Guan use them for dye and medicine. The eldest are Ladon's children and have serpent spirits. Ladon may create more dragon trees by spilling his blood on the soil, and he might trade some of his blood to allies to allow them to grow their own dragon trees. Only those grown directly from Ladon's blood have serpent spirits, which grow stronger each time the tree flowers, which happens once a century. Each flowering gives them a new head, and more heads means more power. Now, this doesn't answer why Ladon helped Trianoma so long ago - and the answer to that is left up to the GM. It may be, though, that Ladon is born of an elemental being from Atlantis who believes the Order may be able to free him by creating a replacement, and who predicts a coming storm that may well end the current world as the last ended Atlantis. (Or, maybe, he's not. Who knows?)

Next time: Hyperborean Magic.

Hyperborean Hymns

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Ancient Magic

The land of Hyperborea, the Land Beyond the North Wind, is one of the greatest mysteries of antiquity. Only the greatest heroes have so much as seen the island, and only a tiny handful of Hyperboreans ever left. They were known for being strange and mysterious, and potent with magic. Legend says they could fly, teleport, project their spirit, enter the spirit world, turn into birds or do great necromancy. It is even said they could return to life after death and lived for centuries. The historian Aelian reports that they helped the northern Greeks worship Apollo, and Herodotus supports this, saying that they belonged to Apollo. Many Hermetics identify Hyperborea as the Realm of Magic, while others say it is regio far north even of the Novgorod Tribunal, where Apollo Phoebus sleeps. Some claim the Hyperboreans were the Nephilim or a similar race.

In ages past, the Hyperborean Hymns were practiced by these strange people, and by other devotees of the god Apollo Phoebus, the Shining One. Their power is not Divine, however, but Magic. The original Hyperborean priests knew hundreds of hymns, carving them on prayer tablets and sacred buildings. Today, few yet survive. Each hymn represented a supernatural power - specifically, a form of magic that granted the hymnist new powers temporarily, gifted to them by the magic of the hymn. The hymns were in the Hyperborean tongue, which is vaguely related to ancient Greek, but the hymns were memorized by rote, so many of the ancient priests may not have known what they meant. Some of those priests were of Hyperborean descent or even full Hyperboreans, however - longlived and resistant to illness, and glowing with Apollo's light as they became warped by magic.

The hymns must be discovered and taught now, which is hard - the Hyperborean priests were slaughtered centuries ago, and the storehouses of their carvings have been lost or destroyed. The Basilica of Ten Thousand Columns is partially intact, as may be other Hyperborean temples in Delos or elsewhere in Greece or Italy, or even the far north. Once you find the hymns, you must learn to recite them, and they are very long and complex. To learn and infuse a hymn takes a full season, after which it is memorized, and the hymn may be recited to infuse supernatural powers into the body. Though the Hyperborean priests once knew many hundreds of sacred names, now only the Seven Beautiful Names of Light remain. These are the sacred names of Apollo Phoebus, and they are the principles that drive the hymns.

Azai , Beautiful Light, gives and governs life and self. Apollo Beautiful-Light is authority and vitality. Azai may grant powers which draw on its principles: birth, the heart, vitality, growth, daytime, light, sunshine, authority, ghosts, love, respect, spirits, gold, defense, leadership and understanding.
Eloure , Fire Daughter, is deep and momentous, guiding to reconciliation. Apollo Fire-Daughter is soft, honest and loving. Eloure may grant powers which draw on its principles: lakes, oceans, rain, rivers, blood, breasts, fertility, the stomach, emotions, dreams, honesty, maternal urges, amber and silver.
Iao , Fire Feeler, is sensitive, delighting in pleasure. Apollo Fire-Feeler attracts both men and women, revelling in luxury and beauty. Iao may grant powers which draw on its principles: cold, damp, the sky, wind, sweet smells, disease, hearing, hunger, sight, taste, veins, affection, attraction, creativity, pleasure, copper, emeralds, auras, sensing magic, cleanliness and harmony.
Oai , Light Breather, is intelligent, clever and expressive. Apollo Light-Breather is adaptable and eloquent, ruling animals and the imagination. Oai may grant powers which draw on its principles: birds, crows, dolphins, grasshoppers, hawks, mice, snakes, swans, wolves, imagination, the intellect, speech, spirits, opals, the spirit world, obscurity, travel and secrecy.
Pentiterouni , Firewalker, is austere and responsible. Apollo Firewalker is dour, patient and in control. Pentiterouni may grant powers which draw on its principles: animal skin, aging, growth, bones, organs, flesh, skin, trembling, ash, fermentation, nightshade, yew, concentration, depression, greed, guilt, seriousness, coal, lead, onyx, sapphires, authority, caves, contractions and organizations.
Psyrinpheu , Firebreather, is ambitious and tyrannical. Apollo Firebreather is sharp, bitter and passionate, a warbringer and conqueror. Psyrinpheu may grant powers which draw on its principles: wolves, fevers, the head, muscles, sexuality, stamina, youth, chestnut trees, nettles, roses, thorns, heat, aggression, conflict, willpower, arsenic, diamond, iron and ruby.
Semesilam , Lightmaker, is enclosure and art. Apollo Lightmaker is the lord of the Muses, bringing justice and prosperity. Semesilam may grant powers which draw on its principles: swans, good health, vigor, song, music, fig trees, fruit, oak, palms, vines, benevolence, justice, morality, optimism, amethyst, marble and tin.

One of the great powers of the Hyperborean hymnists, though, was the ability to combine their voices into great ceremonial choirs. Unlike normal Hymns, the powers produced by this Choirs could only be used once - but they could combine multiple hymns, creating truly immense powers. Further, the hymnists could create holy relics of Apollo - enchanted items bearing the power of the hymns. These did not require vis to make - the magic was channeled through the body, warping the enchanter but allowing easy creation. A single item could hold as many powers as the enchanter was willing to give it.

A Hermetic magus might well want to study the Hyperboreans, though a sane GM will limit how much they can, because frankly, these integrations can break the game even more than anything else. Some are not so bad - the hymnists could make spells last 19 years, and so could a Hermetic studying them. Spirit travel is already partially possible with Hermetic arts, but is less dangerous the Hyperborean way. More dangerous is vis-less magic, allowing the permanent creation of items and other permanent effects without need for vis. This alone would utterly reshape Hermetic society and the world , giving magi far more power than they already have. Likewise, vis-less enchantment will utterly reshape crafting, though it at least will carry the price of warping the enchanter...still, very, very potent. Further, study of the relics would allow magi to overcome the innate limit on spells that can enchant a single item, or to imbue ritual magic into items, both of which are currently impossible and which would both greatly expand the power of crafters.

Now, the real challenge is finding the hymns. From the 4th century BC, the greatest temple of Apollo Phoebus was the Basilica of Ten Thousand Columns, nestled in the Balkans. In the eigth century AD, it was visited by five people - a group of Hermetics who invited them to join or die. The priests told the magi that they could follow none but Apollo, and the magi left. Once the priests had forgotten the visit, Trianoma and Tremere launched a surprise attack on the Basilica. Tremere was greatly wounded, and one of his allies even died, but it was a great victory, destroying the power of the Hyperborean priests utterly despite their potent spells and spirit allies. Both Trianoma and Tremere along with later explorers give a vague location of the Basilica in their writings, but not the exact location. The temple is not on most maps, though it is mentioned in some histories. A few full maps might exist in Hyperborean tombs in Delos.

But let's assume you find it, on the banks of the river Dragor in the Baba Mountains of Epirus. The ruins are home to a magical regio (as well as a now-abandoned monastery of the Orthodox church). The regio is beautiful, and haunted both by the ghosts of the slaughtered priests and by the spirit guardians bound to it before the priests died. Legend speaks of their great treasury, but when Trianoma and Tremere finally destroyed the doors that locked it shut, they found very little inside, not the great hoard of legend. Tremere speculated later in life that the doors themselves had been a path to a deeper regio, now inaccessible forever. The ghosts would be the best teachers of the hymns that anyone could find, but they are likely to be hostile to Hermetics, or at least wary of them.

As for Hyperborea itself...well, it is a regio that lies in the far northern seas, perhaps older than even Egypt and Babylon. Most point to Plato's Atlantis as the source of civilization, but some claim it was from Hyperborea. Legend has it that the god Apollo visited the Hyperboreans every 19 years, when the stars returned to their places. The regio is protected by fiery gates, which may only be passed by those invited or those who know the passwords, so it is impossible to accidentally or forcibly enter Hyperborea. The island is a paradise, so the Hyperboreans do not leave. All possess supernatural powers, for they have not been truly human for centuries at least. They glow with an inner light and may take on the form of sacred animals. The center of the island is the Mountain of Salvation, and at its peak, so high that only flight or spiritual travel may reach it, is the temple of Apollo Phoebus. Every 19 years, on the vernal equinox of the rising of the Pleiads, Apollo Phoebus leaves his temple and goes among the Hyperboreans for great festivals. Good luck getting in, or even finding it - Livy says that Hyperborea was north of the Balkans, but Hecateus placed it near the Celts of Britain, and still others claim it was north of Chinese Turkistan, or perhaps in Tibet. Others say it is north of Novgorod, in the arctic seas.

The book ends by talking about vitkir rune magic, but we've covered that already!

The End!

Choose: Choices are: the True Lineage Houses of Hermes and their secrets (Houses of Hermes: True Lineages), Mystery Cults (The Mysteries, Revised Edition), the Mystery Cult Houses (Houses of Hermes: Mystery Cults), more depth on Covenants (Covenants), the Societates Houses (Houses of Hermes: Societates), France (Lion and Lily: The Normandy Tribunal), academic life (Art and Academe), the Faeries (Realms of Power: Faerie), nobility (Lords of Men), the Church (The Church) or Germany (Guardians of the Forests: The Rhine Tribunal).


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

The fae won the coinflip.

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Realms of Power: Faerie

Faerie is the realm most associated with human belief and imagination. It draws power from hope and fear, but it is not really weakened by the fading of that belief - or if it is, not enough to destroy it. No one worships Hera much any more, but Hera the fairie is still around. It may be said to be a supernatural repository of legend. Generally, it is weaker than the other realms, easily dominated by the Divine or subverted by the Infernal. Technically speaking, a fairie is a spirit with a body formed of incidental matter, held together by a spiritual energy that could be called glamour (though the term is largely unknown outside Scotland, where it is a mospronunciation of grammar). They move with stolen vitality, and their bodies exist to interact with humans. Every fairie has a role, a set of rules it must obey and symbols it cannot change. These rules are called glamour, and they define the fairie's nature and powers, as well as how it interacts with humans and seeks vitality. Faeries are instinctively drawn to humans, so they can borrow a bit of the human ability to change and the human capacity for passion, in the form of human vitality. Many, however, do not realize why they are drawn to humans. This is known as 'cognizance' by Hermetics who care.

Incognizant faeries are often the focus of simple stories, usually warnings or advice on how to avoid or propitiate them. Some animals or werewolves are totally incognizant, completely unaware that they draw nourishment from the fear and precautions taken by humans rather than, say, they sheep they kill. They usually are not aware that their bodies are held together by glamour and may regard themselves to be as organic as humans. If their bodies are destroyed, they may create new ones, but will have no memory of their past existence. They are the most common sort of faerie, and may well be powerful and complex without ever being aware of the ultimate goals of their plans: gain vitality. The Queen of Winter may will just believe she desires a child and kidnap one to force the parents into a cruel game, without realizing this is typical faerie behavior meant to draw vitality from either the child or parents.

Narrowly Cognizant Faeries are aware that they feed on human vitality, but understand only one mechanism for doing so. For example, a faerie wife who drains the life of her husband to allow herself to bear a child is more cognizant than the Queen of Winter above. These faeries instinctively enact variations on one story, unable to consider why this particular story provides them the greatest sense of well-being. They know they need something from humans, and they're usually aware that their bodies aren't quite real things. They can use their powers strategically, and their memories persist between bodies, but they cannot seek to improve themselves in the same way that a highly cognizant faerie can. They are less common than incognizent faeries.

Highly Cognizant Faeries are those that can seek out creative humans, for they know that those humans give them a chance to redefine themselves. If they want to, they can develop new powers by tricking or bargaining with humans. With enough vitality, they may even change their role utterly, becoming a completely different kind of faerie. These faeries are usually unconcerned with the fate of their bodies, creating and destroying them as needed. They are quite rare.

Faeries do not have souls. They are obsessed with etiquette and symbolism, because doing things the "correct" way is what holds their bodies and minds together. They become more potent by participating in stories, which to them are when symbolic events and objects are placed in sequences that shake vitality free from humans. They don't even need to be important to the story to gain vitality. They are fascinated by stories, because they are story elements. When a faerie manifests, it creates a body by seizing on nearby matter symbolically related to its role, using it as a spiritual anchor which it then draws dust, water and other incidental matter to in order to create a substantial, cohesive form with an appearance generated by its glamour. Its role determines its body - a faerie fox must look and act like a fox. Beautiful fairies are usually[/u] good, ugly ones [i]usually malicious.

Some stories, of course, can change that around - Bluebeard, say, is completely handsome and good until his wife discovers his secret room and breaks his taboo, turning him as physically hideous and mentally evil as the story requires. Mindreading can thus be troublesome with the faeries, because in whatever form, they will have appropriately benign or murderous thoughts for the form, rather than the story as a whole. Thought is not really a thing faeries are good at, though - the concept of the 'inner life', by which humans can talk to themselves and interpret events in their heads, is both frustrating and fascinating for the fae. Faeries are incapable of that level of self-reflection, or perhaps unable to act on it while in physical form. They have no soul, in other words, just rules.

A faerie whose body is terminally disrupted may not have time to withdraw its glamour from its spiritual anchor, and the anchor will be filled with vis. Many faeries store their vis in mundane objects they carry, or, far more rarely, in anchors they can distance themselves from. Others place enough power in their anchor to encourage mortals to keep and use it rather than destroy it, speeding their recovery from ''death.' Because of the way faerie bodies work, they have a strange concept of ownership. Their clothes and belongings are literally part of them, unable to pass from them without permission or a story that effectively changes ownership. Items they do not wish to lose simply revert to incidental matter, generally once you leave the area. All of a faerie's glamour-made possessions are Arcane Connections to it. Faeries thus acknowledge that anything which forms an Arcane Connection to a person is symbolically part of them, and that to steal such things is to steal part of their life. Mortal goods that lack Arcane Connections, they feel, are not owned and are thus free to take. Those things that contain a vitality of their own, such as bread, milk, beer or gemstones, are particularly valued by faeries, so often stolen. Some faeries actually spread their glamour over an entire area surrounding their anchor, embodying many or even all of the objects in the area. Usually they also generate a humanoid form to direct attention, allowing them to appear to control the area around them rather than just controlling distant parts of their body.

Faeries often do not take on complete and whole personas - that's one of the easier ways to detect them. Faeries tend to lack the subtlety to be specific people and are, for better or worse, caricatures. They are stock characters, not actual people. They gloss over details. A faerie medic may carry a large bag of medicines, but any real healer would know the contents to be worthless props. Some faerie healers wouldn't even go that far - they'd just have one sovereign elixir for all ills, and perhaps a spoon. The remedy will work, but because of the faerie's magic and not any actual value of its own. Faeries tend to be bad at providing names and biographical details. They are usually not creative enough to lie, so they stick to vague, general answers.

Similarly, faeries do not possess actual skills. They simulate them with magical Pretenses, free expressions of their roles. While they appear the same at human skill levels, any master of the real skill can tell if they try to do something superhuman. A faerie swordsman may have a blade that simply skips intervening space, or a faerie weaver may well just produce cloth with vague hand movements instead of the full shuttle of a hand-loom. Faeries also tend to take taboos seriously - essentially, rules others need to follow around them. Some actions are mandatory, others forbidden. Those who break the taboos owe redress tothe faerie, for they have offended it. It is generally best to avoid doing this, and taboos tend to revolve around hospitality, payment, ownership, religion, iron or opening the body to influence.

Next time: Vitality


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Realms of Power: Faerie

First, it should be understood that merely interacting with faeries can open you to their powers. Speaking to a faerie gives it permission to speak back, and thus use its magical powers via speech. (It also produces an Arcane Connection that lasts until the conversation ends.) Humans can also change faeries via eloquence and expression, of course, which is why many faeries iwll paralyze your tongue or forbid you to speak. Eating faerie food makes you the guest of the faerie, forbidding you to leave until given permission, and so providing an Arcane Connection until you receive that permission. Wounds cause vitality to leak out of your body, so when your blood is taken or tasted by a faerie, you get an Arcane Connection that lasts until the wound heals. And sex with a faerie creates one that lasts for the duration of intercourse (or, if you get pregnant, while you're pregnant).

Anyway, vitality. Faeries seek vitality from humans in many forms. There can never be enough to feed the addiction. Some faeries hunger for expressed emotion - fear, expectations, lust, temptation. Stories often focus on the terror of the ogre or the temptations of the nymph - and it is the emotions they cause that these faeries feed on. Artistic expression can also produce vitality, and so noble faeries will often seek out artists to create works for them, feeding on the vitality of their creativity made solid. Traditional offerings - the bowl of porridge for the pixies, the sacrifices of the pagan gods - also provide vitality. Violent faeries are often fed by the wards that keep them away; there really isn't much metaphysical difference between the bowl of milk for the brownie and the garlic to ward off the vampire. Usually the faeries are not cognizant enough to realize that. Certain objects can also feed faeries - bread, milk, wine, gemstones, cheese, whatever. This typically causes faerie thefts, as the faeries do not really grasp ownership and may view the act of baking bread and then leaving it out in a bakery as a form of sacrifice.

It should be understood that faeries are spirits of the borders. Human vitality surges as we approach and cross borders - as we go from one stage of life to another, as we go beyond our homes and into danger, as we go between states of consciousness or social classes. Faeries patrol these borders, embodying the liminal states - often more than one at a time - in order to find those humans that swell with the vitality of the threshold. One of those thresholds is death: some faeries kill humans and feed on their vitality directly, or the other way around. They drink blood, eat flesh, steal breath. Perhaps they feed on direct vitality, or the terror those around them feel, or the wards that keep them away. Threats of violence are nother good way to gain vitality. By threatening harm, a faerie can gain vitality from the wards that prevent it from followng through. Others seek humans in order to be killed by them. See, most faeries that engage in violence expect to suffer and lose. Many have ways of 'surviving' death or mitigating the damage, while others simply lack the cognizance to understand that by being defeated, they may become a legend for future generations, each of which will defeat the faerie and feed it with the vitality of attention and violent passion.

So what is a faerie like when it isn't seeking vitality? No one knows. It's impossible to really find out - when they notice you researching, they will begin to involve you in stories to gain vitality from you. They tend to treat attempts at understanding as a form of traditional offering. There are many theories, though. Some say that faeries hide a true society and identity behind the webs of story, while others say they continue their last role until they find a new audience. Some say that faeries essentially go into stasis until the next observer shows up, or even just disappear while there aren't any people around

The Faerie Realm itself is one of stories, and those within it can gain power by taking part in the stories and playing along. This power of Fable, as it is known, is earned by expending vitality and giving it to the faeries, and the more Fable you have, the greater your rewards. Of course, there are risks. More Fable can warp you, making you more and more faerie, until at last you cease to be human and simply become a faerie. Plus, the more Fable you have, the slower time goes. For someone with low Fable, a day in Faerie may last only an hour. For someone with a lot, it can last a year.

Within Faerie, the act of human creativity can be used to reshape the stories you take part in. A poet may seek shelter from a storm by converting a tree into a hut to hide in with his words, a singer might draw out a local ice maiden and offer to woo her if she will thaw his friends out and grant them easy passage. Such rewritten power involves a gift of vitality to the fae, as well as a promise to perform some task - 'hide in a hut', 'woo the ice maiden', and so on. Creativity is very potent indeed in the realms of the fae.

The first and most commonly known realm is Arcadia , the Path of Chance, where new stories are born. It is a place of whimsy, terror and more. Journeys into Arcadia have no plan or purpose, innately - it is a place gone to for adventure and the experience of it, rather than for a specific purpose. It responds to the perceptions of those within it, and travelers have as much influence over the flow of stories as the fae do. Everything in Arcadia is potentially a faerie, even the scenery. It is often debated whether Arcadia is the home or birthplace of the fae, or if it is independent of those faeries found in the world. The same sorts of faeries are found, but with the added role of whatever is imposed on them by travelers. In the mundane world, a story is defined by the fae who act it out, while in Arcadia, the fae are defined by the story.

The second realm is Elysium , the Land of Legend and Road of Destiny. In Elysium, all stories have already been told. Here, you find the Song of Roland, the Morte d'Arthur and the legend of the minotaur. If any story was ever told and loved, it can be found in Elysium. Often, travelers come to Elysium to witness these tales or take part in them - who would not want to fight alongside Merlin or Romulus, even if they are mere faerie pretenders? Some mystery cults use this as an initiatory ordeal. Of course, it is impossible to discover secrets that the tellers of the tales never knew - unless a dragon's weakness is part of its legend, Elysium cannot reveal it. The words whispered to dead Baldur by Odin will never be found in Elysium. However, by taking on the role of the hero, one can gain power or insight related to that hero, though usually such aid is indirect - the last known location of Roland's sword, say. All sorts of stories can be found in Elysium - Biblical tales, pagan legend, the romances of Arthur and other knights, the Thousand and One Knights, any story told and loved. (No one has, however, been known to take on the role of Christ in a story in Elysium, perhaps because doing so would be greatest blasphemy for most people who'd go there.) When in Elysium, someone must identify as the hero and be the key figure in the story, whom the faeries will address. (It can be a communal effort, though, which can be amusing when the 'hero' ends up changing mid-scene and the faeries all just automatically shift to focus on the new person.)

Last is Eudokia , the Forking Path. Eudokia is the land of personal dilemmas, wherein travelers are tested based on the symbolism of difficult decisions or life changes. These often take the form of moral tales or tutelary stories, testing your commitment to ideals or ideas. They have a theme - Courage, Fertility, Magic, Skill and so on - based on some situation that you are facing when you enter Eudokia. By acting in accordance with that theme, you are rewarded, while acting against it punishes you. Note that Eudokia has no moral quality - a theme of Caution may reward cowardice and punish reckless bravery, while a theme of Bravery would do the opposite. A theme of Fidelity would punish faithless lust, while a theme of Fertility might reward it. Such blessings and punishments tend to wear off over time once you leave Eudokia, at least.

Next time: Playing a Faerie

Faerie PCs

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Realms of Power: Faerie

The power level of a starting Faerie PC is actually determined by an average of the rest of the party. Faeries get kind of meta that way. Faeries all share a few traits. They do not age naturally, at least, not without a Flaw that says they do. Any equipment traditional for the role cannot encumber them or slow them because these props are treated as part of their bodies. If a prop is lost, it can easily be reconstituted. Pain is not meaningful to most faeries except as an act they may be expected to play by their role. They regenerate as quickly as their story allows from wounds. Incognizant faeries heal quickly and well, while highly or narrowly cognizant faeries can repair all but cosmetic damage whenever the scene they're in ends. Many don't even notice they're doing it. If killed by humans or with human witnesses, they have to spend time rebuilding their bodies - usually several months. Incognizant faeries will not remember their last life as themselves. Narrowly cognizant faeries will usually have only a hazy idea of what happened when they died. Highly cognizant faeries tend not to give a shit.

This doesn't mean you can't permanently kill faeries. You absolutely can. Any Faerie that loses all of its Faerie Might is dead permanently. Miracles and Infernal agents can permanently kill faeries. Extracting the vis from a fae anchor kills the faerie. Incognizant faeries seem to permanently die if destroyed by an object they are particularly weak to. Some Merinita magi claim that all permanently destroyed faeries are just dispelled to Arcadia for millenia, but frankly, even if that's so, it doesn't really matter.

You can play a faerie of any cognizance, though the default is narrowly cognizant. (Beyond that takes a virtue, and incognizance takes a flaw.) Faeries often also suffer from Traditional Wards or Sovereign Wards. A Traditional Ward makes faeries uncomfortable - a faerie warded by iron cannot regenerate their power while in its presence, and will be physically destroyed if forced into prolonged contact with iron for long enough. A Sovereign Ward is all that and also would prevent the faerie from causing any harm to someone defended by iron. Harm is defined quite broadly - they can't directly or indirectly seek to harm that person, and must try to flee the ward, for touching it will destroy the body instantly. Iron is far from the only possible ward - it can be anything that fits the story.

Faeries often possess magical powers, which can be of varying levels of potency, much like those of Magical beings. Most Faeries possess Pretenses instead of skills, as noted before, and so cannot teach them to humans (who lack the ability to cheat), but a rare few faeries are actually in possession of normal, human skills and may teach them to humans, either by normal methods or by trading the knowledge for knowledge the target is willing to give up. A Faerie improves its Pretense by observing humans rather than by practice - rather, they select someone who is experiencing momentous growth and gain the same amount of skill, provided that person was better than they are. By gathering enough of this Pretense, a Faerie may also, rather than improving their skills, attempt to get a human to rewrite them.

See, a faerie can change its glamour by opening itself to a creative human, who will then develop a symbolic object or performance with which to recreate the faerie into a new form. If the human screws up, all that vitality is wasted, of course. And once the faerie opens itself, it has to accept any and all changes the human makes. They don't tell humans that, but for those who work with faeries a lot, it's not that hard to figure out, and a clever human can even get away with making changes that the faerie won't notice. These transformations can remove, transform or grant Virtues and Flaws. This means that while Faeries are often rather slow to advance themselves normally, they are capable of amazing transformations with the help of creative humans. While typically this is only sought out by highly cognizant faeries, a narrowly cognizant or even incognizant faerie may seek it without really realizing what they're doing.

Anyway, faeries, like magical creatures, are extremely diverse and can be made to do just about anything your GM will accept.

Next time: Faerie-touched Humans

Faerie Sympathy

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Realms of Power: Faerie

When faeries draw vitality from humans, they don't just take. Often, they leave behind a supernatural tie to the things the faerie represents. This is called Faerie Sympathy . Faerie Sympathy is very valuable for those who wish to exploit the faerie realm. It represents a mystical connection, negative or positive, to the faerie realm - not any specific faerie, mind you, but the realm in general. Faeries do not cause Sympathy on purpose, and most of them probably don't even know it exists. It's just something about the character that resonates with appropriate subjects. When a character is sufficiently Warped by Faerie (or gains an appropriate Virtue or Flaw), they just get a Sympathy Trait. Sympathy Traits are things like Hounds +3 or Sun -2. Any time you do anything related to your Sympathy Trait you either can choose to add it (if positive) or must add it (if negative). Adding it will cause Faerie warping if you botch, though, and only the highest applicable Sympathy Trait is used in any situation. Negative Sympathy Traits also make all botches, period, worse, as whatever you have Sympathy towards goes out of its way to make your life harder.

You can strengthen your Sympathy traits by using them successfully and well (and weaken them by fucking up) - or vice versa, with negative traits. Sympathy traits can also be gained by deliberate sympathetic influence - the act of going out of your way to associate with faerie powers or performing special ceremonies to deliberately gain Sympathy. It's not easy and it's taxing, but it can be done.

Another trick you can do is make any Virtue into a Faerie one by attaching a Charm flaw to it. Essentially, a Charm is some action you must take or some object required to use the power. A lesser charm involves a minor ritual - rubbing a special item, applying a special lotion, whatever - that only works for you. If the stuff required for the ritual is stolen, the power can no longer be accessed until it is replaced, which usually takes a day or so. A greater charm, it has one key difference: only one copy of the charm can exist, ever. If it's stolen, the thief gains the power. To regain your Virtue, you must either regain or destroy the original charm. In the case of purely verbal or performance-based charms, incidentally, anyone overhearing the trick counts as stealing it. A lesser charm would need to be reinvented, while a greater charm would have to be witnessed again to be stolen back.

Anyone with a Sympathy Trait, as a note, can produce folk charms . They're a form of craft work. They don't take more time to make than normal crafts, but if they are damaged or stolen, the charm will no longer function. What they do is end any faerie power, as long as the charm is somehow symbolically appropriate to the circumstances and you succeed on a Faerie Lore roll. Activating folk charms is tiring and will Warp you. Anyone immune to Warping or fatigue can't use a folk charm.

Faerie Blood is probably the most common way to be fae-touched. Some human bloodlines have a touch of faerie in them, for they can interbreed with men - or they can taint a bloodline by helping the parents conceive. Some can even cause it by feeding on vitality derived from pregnant women, influencing the child - perhaps by drinking the mother's blood, or perhaps by naming the child and declaring itself to be the faerie's godchild. Once faerie blood is introduced into a family, it can be inherited by any descendants. It can skip generations and doesn't seem to care about how long the faerie blood has been in the line - it never gets weaker. It's just there or not there in any specific person. The strength of the blood seems more tied to the cognizance of the faerie involved - higher cognizance tends to produce stronger faerie blood.

Some faerie-touched magicians, as a note, are capable of using mass ceremonies to increase the power of their magic. Others are able to use Curse-Throwing , the power to heal diseases, remove curses and dispel magic by transferring ('throwing') the effects onto another person. Flaws, however, are beyond the power of Curse-Throwing. Any other curse is potentially throwable, along with most diseases and spells. A curse-thrower can throw a curse onto themselves, but they are rarely so altruistic. They may instead throw the curse onto anyone present or to whom they hold an Arcane Connection. You can transfer the curse to an animal, but that's harder than another human. (Assuming you're removing it from a human.) Curse-throwing involves an elaborate ritual and the construction of a charm, which is a combination of a chant and a physical item, which must touch both the target and the recipient of the curse (or the Arcane Connection of the recipient). The ritual typically takes several hours.

Faerie Doctors are a new form of Mythic Companion. Essentially, anyone living in a faerie area needs to stay on good terms with them. The Faerie Doctor is a typically Saxon role, the intermediary between man and fae, also known as a lybman, a practitioner of lyb-craeft. The Faerie Doctor speaks for the human community to the fae, and keeps the legends of the fae alive among the humans, acting as a neutral mediator. Further, all Faerie Doctors practice Curse-Throwing and dowsing. Almost all are male and trained by a relative, but nothing stops a woman from being one other than tradition. All Faerie Doctors are accompanied from puberty by a faerie companion of some sort, who will grant insight into faerie politics and etiquette. These faeries are typically highly cognizant, and may take any form. Once a Faerie Doctor has this companion, their apprenticeship is considered over. They take oaths to not take sides in conflicts between humans and faeries, and many also take other oaths, such as not to cut their hair, never to grow beards, to always wear clothes of the opposite gender or to remain celibate. Such oaths represent the distance the doctor must keep from humanity.

There is also a form of Hermetic or hedge wizard that is highly fae-touched: the homunculus wizard . These are people who lack a true Gift, but receive a Faerie version from their relationship to a homunculus. Homunculi are a sort of faerie that live on the boundary between magic and faerie, typically appearing as tiny, exaggerated humans, often infants. The homunculus must be fed its master's blood once a day, and no other human must ever see them. If any does, they immediately die. Likewise, any physical harm to the homunculus will kill it. A homunculus wizard may follow any tradition, though a Hermetic one may not have a Familiar or a talisman, and suffers Faerie magic warping rather than standard warping. When the homunculus dies, the wizard loses all access to faerie and magical powers until they can find and bind a replacement. There are believed to be a few homunculus wizards in the Order, but no one knows for sure due to the effort they go to to hide their natures.

Next time: Faerie Wizardry

Faerie Magic

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Realms of Power: Faerie

There are two forms of general Faerie magic which can be learned by anyone who possess Sympathy Traits. The first are faerie rites , essentially spontaneous effects on the same rough level as Divine miracles, Infernal maleficia or magical spells. You can only use effects related to your Sympathy traits, but they can be positive or negative. Your number and power of Sympathy traits cap the level of the magic you can use. They are cast be one of three Faerie Methods.

Evocation is the ritual and ceremonial naming of Faerie gods, focused through Warping or Confidence. While you do name your patron faeries with it, the power drawn on is that of the faerie realm in general and not your patrons. The benefit of using Evocation is that it is relatively fast and allows you to use vis to empower it as magi do.
Enchantment is the use of performance - any kind, dance, song, story, whatever - to create magic. It can be done repeatedly, as when you finish one performance you can, if it wasn't powerful enough for your taste, use it to fuel another performance before you unleash your effect. It is impossible to tell by non-supernatural means where the performance ends and the magic begins.
Empathy is the final method, drawing on the internal power of the Faerie in the caster and focusing it through ritual and fatigue to enter a trance state. (If already in a trance state, it is still tiring but much faster.) The disorienting trance lasts until the magic ends, so the fatigue cannot be healed until after that. Further, by spending extra fatigue, the caster may extend the magical effect longer and longer or create more potent effects.

The Faerie Powers are what shape the spell's effects. Each is vulnerable to certain circumstances, chosen when the power is learned: perhaps the touch of iron or salt, or when in the Dominion, or when the caster's name is spoken three times. Beguile is the Power to command or convince a target. It does not give the target any power to do what it can't normally do, but can change and alter memories even of things that do not normally have a mind. (This won't matter unless the thing is supernaturally questioned, of course.) Beguile is also rather unique in that the Sympathy trait used to invoke it is considered applicable so long as it's appropriate to the memory, emotion or perception being caused, even if it is not directly appropriate to the effect. Beguile can change memories, emotions or perceptions, plant suggestions, control mental states, control behavior, paralyze a target with emotion, command targets or even completely control targets.

Conjure produces solid images, similar to the bodies of faeries, appropriate to the Sympathy traits creating them. These are called 'glamours' ruleswise, though most wizards don't know the term - animate illusions with substance, lasting only as long as the magic, and generally with the things they do undone when they fade. Someone called by a glamour sword is likely to recover the moment the sword ceases to exist. If you turn someone into something else, you must have Sympathy Traits applicable to both forms. Intricate glamours are harder, as is changing a thing that can move under its own power into an inanimate thing. Conjure can call up faeries, create glamours or change targets into glamours.

Dream gazes into the land of Faerie, using it to see the world or even the future. Such visions tend to be highly symbolic and vague, of course. Dream can grant danger sense, scry, translate languages, answer questions about the likely future or read minds and memories.

Grant blesses or curses targets with supernatural powers. Grant can restore Faerie Might, grant faerie magic as powers, grant temporary Sympathy traits, grant Warping, grant Flaws, create Faerie auras, grant Virtues or even create Faerie regiones.

Portage is the power of transportation via faerie trods - essentially, spaces that connect places, instantaneous shortcuts. It can transport targets between the levels of a regio, teleport them out of a regio, send them into the Faerie Realm, teleport them into a regio, teleport them over normal distances, prevent someone from exiting an area, grant the power to ignore fatigue while traveling (as faeries do) or increase or decrease movement speed.

Ware is the power to ward and protect. This requires both a Sympathy Trait that covers the target and usually (but not always) one that covers what's being warded against. Ware can suppress magical effects, ward against supernatural beings, ward against mundane things, resist physical damage or grant a target a bonus to defending themselves.

Weal is the power to shrug off damage and heal quickly, usually by changing how something heals rather than actually healing it directly. Weal can speed or slow healing or aging, reduce someone's apparent age, prevent wounds from worsening, delay aging until the magic ends, heal wounds temporarily or even cause a wound to heal as if it were a lighter wound.

Woe is the power to damage directly, and is generally better at doing so than Hermetic magic...but the damage goes away the moment the magic ends. Woe can slow healing, worsen aging, cause fatigue, make wounds heal as if they were worse than they are, cause wounds, worsen wounds or force aging.

Next time: The Ars Fabulosa

Ars Fabulosa

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Realms of Power: Faerie

The second kind of faerie wizardry is known as Faerie Bargaining, or the Ars Fabulosa (the Fantastic Art). It's a very recent art, devised in eastern Europe within the last century or so, originating in the Goetic arts. It is primarily concerned with bargaining with and cajoling the fae. Like other forms of summoning, it conveys the faeries to the summoner and can protect against them. Unlike other forms, however, it can neither compel nor bind to service without the faerie spirit agreeing to a bargain. The four powers of the Ars Fabulosa are Summoning, Bonding, Captivating and Dismissing.

Summoning is the art of calling out faeries from the surrounding area and holding them in attendance. To some, it appears as though the bargainer creates a faerie or turns a mundane object into a faerie, but most summoners believe that the faerie comes from somewhere nearby and manifests in an appropriate shape. Since it's possible to summon faeries with specific roles, most also believe that the faeries that appear must exist before the summoning. You can only summon faeries that are associated with your Sympathy traits, though again, negative traits are as useful as positive ones. The summoning is a tiring act requiring several minutes of concentration. Unlike most magic, a faerie will always appear, even on a botch. If there is a nearby object appropriate to the faerie, it might animate that, or emerge from the local environment if not. A botch means the faerie is hostile, or perhaps cannot be bound to the terms of any agreements made. Or, perhaps, it is an angel or demon in disguise, or a different faerie than the one desired, perhaps more or less potent than needed or wanted. If you manage not to fuck it up, though, the faerie must listen to what you have to say and attend you, and you are warded against its powers, though either you or it can choose at any time to end the summoning and send it home.

Bonding is the art of creating a mystic bond to a faerie, learning to channel its powers as your own. It must be in range of your voice, and you need a Sympathy Trait that applies to it. If a Bonding attempt succeeds, the bond acts as an Arcane Connection to the faerie for as long it exists. While the bond exists, you may use any of the faerie's Pretenses or stats as if they were your own and may use any of the faerie's supernatural senses. You may utilize the faerie's power to activate any magical abilities the faerie has, while the faerie may draw on your fatigue. Any spell or power you can cast may be placed in the bond, giving both you and the faerie the power to cast it at any time. While bonded, you are immune to Warping from faerie auras, and need not breathe, eat or drink, do not suffer from exposure, can ignore penalties from fatigue and may put off any aging until the bond is broken (at which point it all happens at once). The bond can be formed between the faerie and the caster, or the faerie and anyone or anything the caster is touching. If the bond is tied to an object, it applies to the object's wielder, who must activate it each day with a secret charm. (The bond ends if the charm ever ceases to be secret.) You can only have one bond at a time, and activating a second bond destroys the first. Either the faerie or the bearer may break the bond at will, though faeries rarely do this unless the terms of the bargain allow it. It is possible to bond to a faerie that isn't willing, but nothing stops from immediately ending the bond.

Captivating is the art of changing places with a faerie, giving it control of your body while you become the faerie. You can only do this to a faerie in range of your voice, and only if you have a Sympathy trait that applies. It is also a very tiring process. If it succeeds, you basically switch places and character sheets for the duration. You can do whatever you want as the faerie, and it has complete control over your body. You do not trade memories, but do trade minds, so it gains your magic and intellect and you gain its intellect and powers. The only things that do not get exchanged are your personality traits, Confidence, Sympathy Traits and any Faith points you may or may not have. Either party may cancel the exchange at will, and if the other does not want to relinquish control, they may struggle for dominance, with the winner deciding whether or not the exchange ends. Captivating is a potent effect which continuously warps the summoner over time. It is theorized that if the faerie dies while in your body, the exchange becomes permanent, but no one actually knows if that is the case, and others fear that the faerie would return to its body and the summoner would be the one to die.

Dismissing is the art of undoing supernatural powers caused by supernatural beings, as well as freeing supernatural beings from bindings. It is a tiring effort, and to use it, you must ask the supernatural being involved a question. Obviously, again, Sympathy Traits must apply. You may cancel effects caused by supernatural beings, deflect supernatural powers if you can act fast enough, end the duration of any effect that targets a supernatural being or release a supernatural being from the terms of a supernaturally enforced agreement. Many believe that doing the last takes the debt onto the summoner, however. Dismissing, as a note, as a great way to make bargains you have no intention of keeping. Of course, the faeries involved will tend to resent this behavior, so typically you want to bribe them with something valuable first.

There are several pagan Traditions which practice faerie magic. For example, the the Borrowers are the primary practitioners of the Ars Fabulosa. They are essentially merchants who deal with faeries, selling them goods for blessings. When asked what they borrow, they usually say the powers of the fae, though sometimes the answer is 'the things they sell' instead - not all of what they sell is honestly gained. Borrowers trade in novelties and strange things, usually from distant lands, for faeries will usually accept the idea that distant treasures contain more vitality. So long as they have little competition, a Borrower can do very well on just a few bargains a year, and so they prefer to keep moving constantly. Occasionally they take promising children as apprentices, usually by buying them from the fae that have stolen or claimed them. Borrowers specialize in Summoning, Bonding, Captivating and Dismissing.

The Ollamhain (that's pronounced 'ah-luh-vain') are Irish poets, sages and performers. Many deal with the faeries, or the Fair Folk, as the ollamhain call them, and claim special kinship to them. It's far from rare to see an ollamh with faerie blood. Their songs and poems are said to be magical if done correctly. Most are harpists, and often an ollamh will own a magic harp, passed down from father to son for generations. They specialize in Enchantment, Beguile, Dream and Portage.

The Volkhvy are Russian wizards of the faerie realm, old pagans beyond the reach of the Church. Their rites are legendary, gathering entire communities to entreat the faerie gods for aid and blessings to survive the winter. They are often extremely confident in their convictions. They specialize in Evocation, mass ceremony, Conjure and Grant.

The Wise Folk are not really a tradition so much as a thing. There's just all kinds of faerie-touched people out there who live on the fringes of society. The people call them wise men and wise women, and come to them when troubled, but they are also forced to live apart because they are strange and intimidating. They tend to be good at keeping the supernatural at bay and protecing their communities. It's likely these folks that the Order pictures when the term 'hedge wizard' is brought up. They specialize in Empathy, Ware, Weal and Woe.

There's also some advice on how to run adventures in faerie and what traditional flow of stories is like but eh.

The End!

Choose: Choices are: the True Lineage Houses of Hermes and their secrets (Houses of Hermes: True Lineages), Mystery Cults (The Mysteries, Revised Edition), the Mystery Cult Houses (Houses of Hermes: Mystery Cults), more depth on Covenants (Covenants), the Societates Houses (Houses of Hermes: Societates), France (Lion and Lily: The Normandy Tribunal), academic life (Art and Academe), nobility (Lords of Men), the Church (The Church) or Germany (Guardians of the Forests: The Rhine Tribunal).

France: A History

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

France won the coinflip.

Ars Magica 5th Edition: The Lion and the Lily: The Normandy Tribunal

Four our purposes, France consists of roughly the northern two-thirds of the nation that is actually called France today. The actual nation of France in 1220 is not quite that large - it's a kingdom under King Philip II "Augustus" of the Capetian Dynasty. The other major power in the region is the Angevin dynasty, rulers of Aquitane and England. The Normandy Tribunal is easily one of the most populous areas in Europe, with many great cities. Let's look at their history.

In the ancient times, the land was home to the Gauls, who were pagan tribes that revered the boar above all animals, and whose druids may have been forebears to House Diedne. Between 58 and 50 BC, Julius Caesar fought the Gauls and their leader, King Vercingetorix, and conquered his way to Brittany. To this day, Roman ruins can be found. Many druids fled before the Roman wrath, and the Gauls never truly adopted the Roman pantheon, continuing to also worship their own gods. The mix of Gallic and Roman culture flourished for centuries. In the 5th and 6th centuries AD, the British Celts flooded the area, fleeing the collapse of Arthur's kingdom and the invasion of the Picts, Irish and Saxons. They settled in Armorica, now known as Brittany, developing the Breton tongue and often becoming independent.

In the mid-3rd century, Christians arrive in Paris, led by Denis and his assistants Eleutherius and Rusticus. They enter the pagan city and preach the gospels, but the Roman governor has them thrown in prison, where they live in prayer for years and convert people via, presumably, windows. Eventually, in 275, the are taken to the Hill of Martyrs and beheaded. However, Christianity flowed through Paris and they were eventually honored by the abbey of Saint-Denis, and Saint Denis is one of the patrons of France and personal patron to the king, as well as Paris.

In the 5th century, the Roman Gauls are threatened by the Franks, a group of fierce Germanic tribes. They'd originally been bound by treaty to the Roman empire, and their king, Childeric, helped the Romans defeat the Visigoths. His successor, Clovis, defeated the Roman governor Syagrius in 486, though, and made peace with the Ostrogoths, ruling a great independent empire. He conquered France, and his dynasty flourished, with fourteen great Merovingian kings. Clovis ruled until 511, and he converted to Christianity at the behest of his wife, Clotilde of Burgundy, as well as witnessing the miraculous healing of the blind at the tomb of Saint Martin of Tours. In 496, he swore to God that he would become Christian if he won his battle against the Alemanni - which he did soundly, and was baptized by Saint Remi, archbishop of Reims. Following his death, the Frankish lands were divided among his four sons, and civil war marked the Merovingian period. In 732, a Muslim army invaded from the Iberian peninsula, and the great hero Charles Martel led the battle against them at Poitiers, defeating them. In 754, his son Pepin seized the throne from the Merovingian king, whose hair had been shaved off to destroy his magical powers, and forced the man to become a monk. Legend persists, however, of Merovingian heirs escaping Pepin's coup.

Merovingians: literally magical.

The new rulers, the Carolingians, made great efforts to gain Church support. They used the name Louis, from Clovis, for they claimed descent from Blitild, daughter of King Clothar, for their legitimacy. The abbot of Saint-Denis supported them, and in 754, Pope Stephen II declared that any king not of the Carolingian line would be excommunicated, as would be whoever crowned them. The name 'Carolingian' comes from Charlemagne, one of the mightiest kings of history and easily the most beloved king of French history. The empire he built did not long survive him, however.

In 987, Hugh Capet became King of the Franks, descended from King Robert the Strong of Brittany and Hugh the Great, effective ruler of France under the weak Carolingians Louis IV and Lothair. It is believed that his rise to the throne was assisted both by the Archbishop of Reims in 991 and the magical scholar Gerbert. He would have been excommunicated in accordance with Pope Stephen's standing law, but he recovered the bodies of Saint Valery and Saint Riquier, earning the throne for seven generations. It is now currently held that the current king, the seventh generation since Hugh, will be the last of the Capetian kings, despite the fact that Philip has a healthy heir named Prince Louis.

Carolingians: also magical.

Anyway, back to history. In 845, 120 Viking longships sail to Paris, sacking towns and monasteries on the way. They hold Paris for ransom. This isn't especially rare - Charlemagne fought the Vikings, and they nearly destroyed Aquitane in the late 800s. Many raids are believed to have been guided by Divine hands, for the places the Vikings struck were often hotbeds of sin, and the raid on Paris is believed to have been caused as punishment for the Frankish civil war after the death of Louis the Pious in 840. By the mid-800s, the Vikings had semi-permanent bases in Neustria (that is, the Duchy of Normandy), and these forced King Charles III to come to accord with the Viking leader Rollo in 911. Rollo's land was meant to be a buffer state between the heartland of France and the Scandinavians. In accordance with the treaty, Rollo became Christian, married Charles' daughter and was given the counties of Rouen, Lisieux and Evreux. However, Rollo and his descendants, the earls of Ruda, encouraged immigration from Scandinavia and enlarged their territory. The Franks began to refer to them as the Northmen, and by 1000 this became Norman, and Norman pirates were a fixture of northern France.

Incidentally, Rollo's successors include William II the Conqueror, AKA William the Bastard, who took England, and Henry II, who ruled nearly half of France and all of England. Henry's son was Richard the Lionheart, and the present Norman claimant is Henry III. Anyway, the raids into France by the Vikings were actually the source of the Hermetic fears of the Order of Odin - the Vikings sacked a few covenants and had vitkir helping them, see. Anyway, in the late 12th century. a new problem arose. On Good Friday of 1137, William of Aquitane died on pilgrimage, leaving his rather sizable territories to his daughter Eleanor. She married the 16-year-old heir to the throne, massively increasing the royal demesne, especially when King Louis VI died that year and was succeeded by Eleanor's husband Louis VII. The marriage didn't go well, though. Eleanor is widely believed to have been promiscuous and unfaithful, and Louis was more monk than knight, often scandalized by the looser Aquitanian ways. The defeat of the French in the Second Crusade is often blamed on Eleanor countermanding her husband's orders and having too much influence over him.

On return from the failed Crusade, Eleanor sued for divorce on grounds of consanguinity and lack of male heir, and Louis eventually agreed to an annulment. She married again, to Henry of Anjou, heir to the throne of England. In 1154, Henry took that throne and placed the French kings in grave danger, for his wife ruled Aquitane - and so now did he, along with his other holdings in Normandy and Brittany. The Angevins now hold a vast empire in French territory, threatening to eclipse French royal power. The marriage, having not been permitted by Louis, was an affront in and of itself, an act of rebellion. It took him some time to respond, though, as the Church tried to impose a truce. Fortunately, Henry's sons were no more loyal than their father was and revolted against his rule, aided by their mother. Eleanor was imprisoned for much of Henry's reign, and the rebellious sons reduced the pressure on France.

In 1180, Louis VII died and Philip Augustus, his son by his third marriage, took the throne. Intelligent, able and angry, he has been seeking to consolidate power against the Angevins. He's been received by clear Divine approval - when he was fourteen, his father suffered a stroke and stepped down to him. He fell ill before the ceremony, but his ailing father took pilgrimage to Canterbury and the shrine of Saint Thomas, praying for his health. It was miraculously restored, and he was crowned in 1179, taking the throne the next year on his father's death. Some say he has Carolingian blood, and he has yet to name his heir apparent, despite having a son born in 1187, a daughter in 1197 and a second son in 1200. Some say Philip is not truly royal, for he lacks grace and charm, but he has very enthusiastic about being an administator and diplomat, and he's got an army of bureaucrats. Some see this as insulting to proper nobility, especially since he has been very reluctant to fight in the name of God - he left the Third Crusade early and has not personally participated in the Albigensian Crusade.

In any case, the last 30 years have been rather troublesome - Henry of England crowned his son Henry, but refused to cede any power, and his other sons, Richard, John and Geoffrey, rebelled, frequently coming to Philip for aid. Henry the Young died in 1183, and Geoffrey died in 1186, leaving Henry's two other sons to divide the Angevin inheritance. When Henry died in 1189, Richard was made King of England, the worst foe yet. He subdued the rebels of Aquitane, fought Saladin and become beloved as Richard the Lionheart and was even imprisoned on his way home from Crusade. Meanwhile, his treacherous brother John plotted to seize the throne, and while Richard was released and made peace, he died by crossbow in 1199 and John became King, at the urging of Eleanor. This proved good for France - John was absolutely terrible at defending his holdings from Philip, got into the scandal of seizing marrying Isabella of Angouleme despite her betrothal to his vassal, and many of his vassals rebelled against him. After he refused to answer a summons by Philip to answer to charges made against him, a war started in 1202, with one of the strongest claimants to the British throne, Duke Arthur of Brittany, fleeing to Philip's court and helping to fight.

Eleanor of Aquitane was nearly captured by Arthur, but John somehow devised a brilliant strategy, capturing Arthur in battle and rescuing his mother. Despite this, Philip is still winning. Eleanor has died of old age, finally, and many of John's vassals have defected. Philip has captured both Normandy and Poitou. John is stuck in England dealing with the Pope's interdict as of 1214, and while he tried to gain alliance with the Holy Roman Empire, France defeated their armies at Bouvines, and in 1215, his barons revolted and forced him to sign the Magna Carta, restricting his authority. Philip could not invade, as England is a papal fief, but he allowed his heir to do so. John's death in 1216 ended the invasion, and the English barons now rally under Henry III, a youth controlled by a regency council. The Angevins are no longer seen as a major threat to France, and the Normandy Tribunal is once more at peace.

However, the Albigensian Crusade has been spreading from southern Provencal. The Cathar heresy is prevalent in the south, and many northern knights have gone to assist in purging them. Further, rumor has it that John murdered his rival to the throne, Arthur...or, perhaps, that Arthur somehow lives still, perhaps as a monk or a Hermetic apprentice. He may still live.

Next time: Hermetic history in Normandy.

The Normandy Tribunal

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: The Lion and the Lily: The Normandy Tribunal

The Tribunals have changed quite a lot since the first days of the Order. The original Tribunals were the Rhine, the West Franks, the Sanctuary of the Alps, the Roman, the Theban, the Britannian and the Lotharingian Tribunals (that last one was roughly covering the kingdom of King Lothair). However, this didn't survive long - the Grand Tribunal of 865 shifted to a more regional, decentralized set of them. The West Franks and Lotharingians became the Normandy Tribunal, which has not stopped the Lotharingian Movement, which seeks to reform the Lotharingian Tribunal between the Rhine and Normandy ones.

The original West Frankish Tribunal included Gascony, but not Flanders or Brittany, which belonged to the Brittanian Tribunal. The Lotharingian Tribunal dissolved when Lothair's kingdom split and both the Rhine and West Franks moved to incorporate large chunks of it, with the remnant forming the much smaller Provencal Tribunal. There was no actual reason that the dissolution of Lothair's kingdom should have caused this, but the move was upheld in Grand Tribunal in 898. The name 'Normandy Tribunal' dates from around the 10th century and the Viking invasions and settlement. It was adopted officially in 983, as Normandy rose in power and the Franks declined.

The Schism War was terrible for the Normandy Tribunal, as it and Brittany were home to some of the worst battles. After the fall of Diedne, the House was purged from all official records in the Tribunal, though some references exist still in private works and older books. For a century or more, Diedne had been a major player in the area, but House Guernicus' censorship of their role in history has made it hard to understand the Tribunal's early days. The ruins of the war can still be found, and so can rumors of Diedne ghosts...or the ghosts of their attackers. And there are those who worry that Diedne sealed its leaders away in a regio, for certainly their great covenant Branugarix did vanish overnight as the regio it laid within sealed itself off. Immediately after the Schism War ended, Brittany was swapped from the Stonehenge to the Normandy Tribunal, due to a mix of geography and the desires of Houses Tytalus and Flambeau to control the former Diedne covenants.

The squabbles over the spoils of Diedne saw an almost immediate breakout of hostilities between the northern Tytalus and southern Flambeau, and by the early 11th century, another war was feared. The Quaesitores stepped in, and the magus Pertheus of Tytalus gained their support for his Perthean Compact, a set of rulings that would allow for communal exchange of contested vis by competition at a septannual tournament, though much of Flambeau hated the move. This eventually clarified the split between Normandy and Provencal Tribunals: Normandy covered the regions of France that spoke Langue d'oeil, and Provencal the regions that spoke Langue d'oc. By 1050, the current borders were reached.

The culture of Normandy Tribunal draws heavily on the legendry of Charlemagne and his vassal-empire. The concept of vassalage and fealty are strong, and Normandy has adopted them in a Hermetic fashion, allowing covenants to found daughter-houses in the same way that some monasteries do. Due to the vast population of the area, there is very little in the way of land away from the mundanes, and the Dominion is very strong. Vis sources are rare, and the Hermetics are growing such that they can't usually keep up, making vis very scarce in Normandy. The Tribunal's greatest set of laws is devised to help deal with this shortage and how to deal with mundane people. Many covenants have local noble allies, largely because they need them to avoid the touchy French nobility getting upset about their power, but that makes politics very complicated. Further, it opens magi to problems of vassalage and Code violations.

The shadow of Charlemagne runs far, and the culture of knighthood engendered by his legend and the Christian romances have also led to the Normandy Tribunal being very predominantly Christian, with decreased tolerance for pagans, Muslims and Jews (though, as always, magi are somewhat more accepting than normal people in most such matters). Most covenants will, at some point, need to deal with the Church and its incredible power in the area. Oh, and the local magi often hold nationalist sympathies, so Norman and Breton magi may well end up at odds, for example. Aquitane is more relaxed...and seen as frivolous by its northern neighbors. Magi are, well, generally less nationalist but that hardly stops their companions and grogs from having border trouble.

The Normandy Tribunal also greatly encourages adventure. One of its grand traditions is the Magus-Errant, an adaptation of the knight-errant. In order to prove a young magus' usefulness, the magus will head out to travel Europe in search of vis and adventure to bring back home to Normandy with the goal of retiring in splendor. Thus, Normandy magi tend to travel further than most. They tend to also believe the Gift is in the blood, despite occasional evidence that heredity has nothing to do with it, because the power of bloodlines runs so deep in the area, between the Merovingians, Capetians, Angevins and Carolingians. Indeed, a number of Normandy theorists started by the 11th century Jerbiton magus Metrodorus of Thebes hold that those with mythic power derived from bloodline should be considered magical nobility. He held that all the Founders were descended from magical beings of power, and that noble breeding was important. (Metrodorus eventually got in trouble for trying to abduct the son of a king from a monastery to be his apprentice and was killed in a Wizard's March along with some of his allies.) Only in Normandy Tribunal do his ideas still hold any weight with the Order, which may well cause some trouble in the future.

Anyway, vis ownership and the Perthean Compact. The Tribunal divides vis sources into several categories. It holds that the Tribunal actually owns most of them, leasing them out to covenants for various periods, and that the rest belong to Covenants. Individuals may not own vis sources. The kind of vis owned by a covenant is called a seisin . A seisin is defined as any vis source that may be reached from the covenant's council chamber within a day's return march. The Tribunal has clarified that: A man must be able to reach the vis source and return by his own two feet without aid of magic, between sunrise and sunset on a day with the month of equinox. As a result, many covenants keep a special grog around, called the cursor ('runner'), whose duty it is to prove to Quaesitores that a seisin qualifies as a seisin. Tribunals have also gone to great efforts to make things easier - building roads, draining swamps, even moving hills, either to help themselves or sabotage foes. A covenant has exclusive rights to harvest all seisins it owns.

Then you have legacies . Any newly discovered vis source too distant to be a seisin can be made a legacy of the discoverer by vote of the Tribunal. The lease to a legacy lasts seven years, so until the next Tribunal, and it grants exclusive harvest rights. If you want to keep the lease, you must ask for renewal at Tribunal, and a vote will be taken. If the Tribunal votes against it, the lease lapses and the legacy becomes a tropaeum. Commonly, a legacy lease is given to the discoverer of a vis source, unless the source is close enough to a covenant to be seisin, in which chase that takes precedence. Most renewals do not get approved, as young covenants lack the political power to get the votes, and old ones tend to have grudges and rivalries that prevent them from getting the votes. The main exception is when the legacy requires some unique method to harvest that the discoverers refuse to share, or if they are extremely close to a covenant but cannot be reached in half a day due to, perhaps, being on top of a mountain or at the bottom of a lake.

Tropaea , 'trophies', are those vis sources held in common by the Tribunal. They are granted on seven-year lease, like the legacies, but the ownership is determined by the Hermetic Tournament (more on that later). Any tropaeum is a vis source that is not a seisin and whose legacy lease has lapsed, but which is easy to harvest. The current leaseholder has exclusive harvest rights. A vis source communally held by the Tribunal but which requires great skill or danger to harvest is luctatio , 'contest', and may be freely harvested by anyone who can manage the task; for example, a tree that produces Perdo vis may be considered luctatio because it has a nest of basilisks living in and around its roots. The mournful song of a ghost maiden may be considered luctatio, because while the song contains Mentem vis, first you have to somehow capture it in physical form.

The Tribunal also maintains a communal library, based on the practices of a magus 150 years ago by the name of Perpauca Bonisagi. She donated most of her work to the Tribunal as a whole and was widely lauded for it, convincing others to follow her. Writing and contributing an original work to the library grants an automatic prize at the next Tournament: the automatic lease of a book of equal quality. Books are leased on seven-year loans, as with all prizes. The books and quality thereof within the library are a matter of public record, and it is forbidden for any member of the Tribunal to use them unless the lease has been won in Tournament.

As a side note, due to a series of ill-thought-out rulings in the 11th century and early 12th century, the raiding of mundane resources of a covenant is not considered illegal or in any way breaking of the Code. In 1220 the practice is seen as outdated and few use it for fear of appearing barbaric to other Tribunals, but not all agree and there is no repercussions for, say, going and blowing up a rival's mercantile facilities so long as you do not touch their vis, books, magic items or lab tools. Food, consumables, building supplies, arms and armor, luxury goods, money - all of that is fair game. Livestock and covenfolk are fair game; apprentices, familiars and magical beasts are not. The physical buildings of the covenant are also sacrosanct, as is endangering the life of any magus. And you can be challenged to certamen to make you go away, retreating at least a mile and not returning until sunrise. Legally, a foreign magus may take part and execute raids on Normandy soil, though it's rare, as any Code breakage is judged exceptionally harshly in these cases.

Next time: Urban covenants, new covenants.


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: The Lion and the Lily: The Normandy Tribunal

The Normandy Tribunal ruled that, yes, a covenant could legally be sited in a town and that normal interaction was legal. (It took until 1207 to rule that, but.) Further, they ruled that a covenant could receive a town charter from a lord if they didn't take advantage of any priveleges themselves, except tax collection. It was also ruled in 1200 that the covenant closest to a town, known as the senex, has superior rights in that town to other covenants, so if actions in that town collaterally damage a covenant that is not the senex, the senex is not to be blamed. The senex is judged to be the covenant that can hear the town's church bells the loudest. (Thus, for many towns, there is no senex.)

As you might guess, the Normandy Tribunal has a much looser definition of mundane interference than most places. So long as you do not "bring ruin upon" other magi, you can basically do as you please. To prevent reprisals, covenants often act through mundane allies, known as masks, who willingly take on the appearance of leading their schemes in order to target reprisals at themselves in exchange for various things. However, masks cannot protect you from the charge of depriving other magi of their power, so cannot be used against the senex of a town. Most cases will be dismissed unless a mundane reprisal has targeted the Order in some way.

In theory, founding a covenant in the Normandy Tribunal is very simple. Legally, you must have sources of vis sufficient to provide one pawn per magus, or four pawns if you have less than four magi. You must also have an officially declared meeting place called the council chamber, though it need not be actively used by anyone, just so long as you can identify it for the Tribunal. The council chamber must not be within a day's travel of another covenant's council chamber, which traditionally means it should be unreachable by use of the Seven League Stride spell. You must only have sufficient vis supply when the place is founded, though - if you get more members or lose vis sources, you do not get dissolved. The hard part is getting the vis sources in the first place.

Because of the strict rules regarding ownership of vis, typically a covenant forms with the help of another. A covenant with legacy leases can sponsor a new covenant, often made of apprentices, as a vassal. The vassal is established within a day's march of the legacy and thus gains ownership of it, registering it as seisin at the next Tribunal. Liege-vassal lines are the mainstay of Normandy Tribunal politics, and a covenant will usually hold oath of fealty over its vassals, who have the same from their vassals. There are only five great lines of fealty: Fudarus, Confluensis, Florum, Oleron and Montverte. There were two other lineages, but one was destroyed in the Schism War due to being largely Diedne and the other, Sinapis, was abolished because most of the members of House Flambeau headed for Provencal after the Perthean Compact was formed.

The oaths of fealty typically involve a yearly tithe of vis and free proxy voting for the vassal covenant, thus increasing the liege covenant's political power. Some oaths are freer than this, others stricter. The liege is usually required to only use the votes wisely, and there are conditions laid out for when the vassal requires aid and how to request it. These oaths are legally enforcable as part of the Normandy Tribunal's Peripheral Code. They can be dissolved by mutual agreement, or if one party successfully prosecutes the other for oathbreaking. The protection of the liege and the loyalty of the vassal are vital, and oathbreaking is much hated by the Tribunal. A very few covenants are, however, independent of this system, usually due to luck or by severing ties. Sometimes it's because a liege is destroyed. These covenants are free of obligation, but also lack the political support of the feudal covenants, and often must ally to one of the great lines.

Solitary magi, called eremites, may not own seisins, so they must rely on tropaea won at Tournament for their vis, or on luctationes. There is also one eremite who is so beloved that he essentially has permanent lease on a legacy, but that is a very, very rare case. Some covenants also form without meeting the Tribunal's requirements, but they are not considered legally to be covenants, just coenobium, communities. They may not possess seisins, just like eremites, and hardly ever get granted legacies. Further, they must compete in the Tournament as eremites rather than a covenant. Coenobites are not respected at all, though properly solitary eremites are.

So what is the Hermetic Tourney? Well, the Tribunal loves knightly culture. After each Tribunal meets, it holds the Tournament. (It helps that the fiery Flambeau and competitive Tytalus were major founders of the Tribunal.) The Tournament is held away from prying eyes, hidden by magic, and the purpose of the Tourney is to dispense the tropaea. Anyone not part of a recognized covenant may enter, but each must pay five pawns of vis to do so, and cannot form a team larger than five magi. There are traditionally six events held over three days. One event is chosen by the covenant hosting the Tournament, though it is considered very bad form to win that event if you're the host. The contest must involve magical skill, and properly choosing one is a matter of diplomacy. The traditional events held each Tribunal are the hastiludium (a "mounted" battle with "spears"), the certamen tournament, the joust, the great melee (in which grogs try to rush enemy "castles") and the dimicatio.

Competitors are scored by success, with points tallied up after each event. Teams get higher starting tallies based on numbers, which biases events against coenobiums and visiting teams, which start with the lowest tally. The winner of the hastiludium gets 20 points, the defeated finalist gets 10, all semifinalists get 5 and all other teams get 1. The victor of certamen gets 25, the finalist gets 15, semifinalists get 8 and all other teams get 1. The winner of the dimicatio gets 25, the finalist 12, the smifinalists 6, all others 1. The melee winner gets 6, second to fourth place get 2, fifth gets 1, no one else gets any. The host's choice event awards 12 points to the winner, 8 to second place, and 3 to third and fourth. All others get 1. The joust is most prestigious, and the winner gets 20, second gets 8, third and fourth get 3, and all others get 1. Points are then tallied up, and prizes are awarded to the top 21 teams.

Seventh place is known as the Siege of Notatus, after a famous wizard who sponsored early contests. 13th is known as the Siege of Shame, and gets no prize, due to a Tournament in 1151 in which 13th place was earned by an Iberian team that used only barely legal tactics and was forever enshrined in Tribunal law and tradition as a result. The 21st position, the Siege of Alms, is a consolation prize designed to get teams to enter. There is little honor to the position, but it is a good one. Traditionally, half of the prize is donated to the teams that did not place, divided as the 21st position team sees fit. Prizes are selected as they are announced, on a first-come, first-serve basis, but only one prize may be awarded at a time, so it will go down the list and then loop around if the first few teams still have prize pawns left to spend. All prizes must be returned for the next Tournament, except for raw vis.

Now, the games. Hastiludum involves two teams of three. One member sits on an object - a pig, a broom, a washtub, whatever they like, so long as it can be found in a peasant village and is no longer than a broom and no wider than a beer barrel. The teams face each other at a distance of 120 paces, with a 40-pace-wide field. Each magus may cast a single spell before the contest begins, as preparation, and may cast freely during the contest. Each team tries to force the other team's magus off their "mount" with magic, and to propel their own "mount" over their opponents' start line. The Parma Magica may not be extended over the mount, and both sides may freely cast on either mount. Tradition states that anyone who causes injury must supply the vis required to heal it. The winners are the first to get over the other team's start line. Any magus who touches the floor is out of the contest, and the "mount" must physically pass over the center of the field, so teleportation is not a winning strategy. Matchups are randomly drawn and single elimination.

The Certamen Tournament is a randomly drawn single-elimination tournament. The elder of any duel chooses the Technique involved, and the younger chooses the Form. Each team may select a champion to represent them each round, allowing for strategy. The Joust is a traditional joust - two magi, each armed and mounted, aiming to unhorse each other in a charge. The winner of each match is whoever wins best of three falls, and the loser is eliminated. Magi can ride mundane horses or magically created or enhanced mounts. Use of magic is permitted, but only on your own mount, person and weapons. Teams choose one magus as their champion for the tournament, and wounds are especially common in this tournament.

The Melee is a rather unusual event. The combatants are grogs or companions, on foot, using blunt weapons only so as to avoid physical damage. They struggle to control a mock battlefield, and each time creates an illusionary "castle" in a ring placed around the edge of the field, with even spacing between each ring. Three grogs (or companions) represent each team in attempting to charge the field and "capture" castles by breaking the spells creating them via damage to the rings. The last team with a surviving "castle" is the winner. No magic may be used, and the most common tactics tend to involve sprinters and grappling rather than normal combat. Physical combat is allowed, but any grog causing serious injury disqualifies their team and earns a hefty fine. The melee is a very recent addition, and unpopular with conservative magi due to its lack of magic.

The Dimicatio is an event common among House Flambeau. It is a magical duel between two champions, but utterly unlike certamen. Each magus will cast a spell at the other, though reining in their power such that it will, if it strikes, dissolve against the Parma harmlessly. The opponent must then fast-cast a counterspell to block it. The first magus whose Parma is struck by the enemy's spell is the loser. Spells which bypass the Parma by indirect aiming are strictly forbidden, and the contest is always under tight watch by both referee and spectators, who typically use magic to ensure they can detect any cheating. If you pierce your opponent's Parma you are disqualified and likely to be charged with a crime. The rules permit any spell that directly targets your foe, and higher level spells are, naturally, harder to defend against. Ball of Abysmal Flame is a crowd favorite. As for the Host's Choice , well, it could be anything so long as it tests magical ability in some way.

Next time: Places and things to do.

Regional Overview

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: The Lion and the Lily: The Normandy Tribunal

We start our journey in Brittany. Southwest of the town of Rennes, near the border of Normandy and in a forest, there is Faeries' Rock, a structure of 42 purple stones. On the night before the winter solstice, a court of faeries will assemble there to try other faeries and occasionally mortals for arbitrary crimes against its arbitrary rules. Those summoned are taken from their beds and teleported to the Rock chamber, where they must listen to anyone who wants to speak for or against them (and can speak for themselves, if they want). The faerie noble running the show will decide on final verdict and sentence. Rewards and punishments are just as arbitary as the laws. The proceedings end as the first shaft of morning light enters the chamber, and any mortals still there must find their own way home.

The nearby Forest of Broceliande is home to the Fountain of Youth, or a Fountain of Youth. Washing your face in the spring's water will make you appear younger for several hours, but so far no one knows how to take advantage of this faerie glamour. Merlin came to this place seeking solitude, and it is here that he met Viviane, the faerie known as the Lady of the Lake. He loved her, but she tired of him and put him to a deep sleep. Legend says he is still near the Fountain, beneath a pair of stone slabs known as the Stone of Merlin. It is said that a drop of water that falls on the Stone will become vapor and the air will become dark and thundery. No one is entirely sure what else might be involved in getting into the Faerie regio that Merlin probably sleeps in.

Let's see...Fudarus, the Domus Magna of House Tytalus, is worthy of mention for the fact that it has exactly two magi living in it, both of whom claim the title of Primus of House Tytalus. As of 25 years ago, the former primus, a woman named Buliste, was declared to have entered Final Twilight and replaced by a man named Harpax. However, she returned from Twilight a few years later and the two have been battling for control of House Tytalus ever since. The other magi of Fudarus have moved out to a nearby vassal covenant, from which all their business is now done until one of the two primi assumes dominance. Buliste is a regal woman who appears to be in her mid-sixties (she's over 80) and commands spirits and spies to annoy her rival, specializing in the art of Mentem. Harpax, her rival, was trained by the same magus and appears to be in his 50s. (He's 70.) He's a better politician and has more human allies, as well as control of the House's wealth, but the rest of the Order likes Buliste more.

Also, they force you to get in via beating someone at a challenge.

Heading on to Normandy, well, let me show you what is most interesting.

Moving quickly to Anjou and Aquitaine, we find the faerie castle at Lusignan. It is owned by a family related to the Counts of Poitiers. Whenever a new count is about to be born or is about to die, a water sprite appears on the ramparts. Her name is Melusine. Long ago, the Count of Poitiers and his adopted son, Raymond, were hunting boar and Raymond accidentally killed his father. He fled in panic until he found a glade with a bubbling spring and three beautiful women. One of them, Melusine, agreed to become his wife if she could spend the Sabbath alone. They had many children, but all had some odd defect. The second son moved to Parthenay, where his mother conjured a castle for him, and the family lives there to this day. Raymond did eventually learn why Melusine needed that day: she was cursed to spend that day with the lower half of her body in the form of a serpent. He loved her so he kept silent until, one day, due to the stress of having one of his sons killed by Norsemen who raided the monastery he lived at, he let the secret slip to his wife. On learning that, she fled the castle forever.

Onwards to Ile de France, home of Paris! Paris is home to the King of Beggars, the Grand Coesre, who rules as strictly as any monarch and commands thieves and beggars of all kinds. He divides his subjects by job - the Marcandiers, who pretend to be robbed merchants, the Francs-mitoux, who have false fainting fits in public spaces, the Malingreux who use fat mixed with ashes to appear horribly diseases, the Pietres, who hobble around on crutches faking lameness, the Saboleux, who use blood and soap to appear to froth at the mouth, the Polissons, who go naked and beg for clothes, the Courtards-de-boutanche, who pretend to be out-of-work tradesmen, the Hutins, who pretend to be bitten by mad dogs, the Coquillards who use forged pilgrims' certificates to beg for alms, the Calots who pretend to be witless dotards, the Capons who do card games, the Narquois, pensioned soldiers who extort via threats, the Millards, who are traveling racketeer groups, and the Orphelines, who slit wealthy money pouches to steal coin. There are others, too. Not all criminals serve the Beggar King, but he does dominate the underworld of Paris. His name is Anacron, Magus of Ex Miscellanea

Off to Flanders and Picardy!


Near Picardy, in the swamps of the Somme, there are enchanted pools, which glow with blue light. If you look close, you can see wealthy carriages within the pools. It is said that water sprites live here, stealing anything that falls into or is trapped by the pools, waylaying travelers with their magic. On the other hand, a toddler or child who slips into one of the springs will be blessed with beautiful blue eyes, and those who willingly give to the waters may be rewarded. These pools, naturally, are bastions of Faerie.

Champagne and Burgundy are home to the covenant Cunfin, notable for being a covenant of grail-seekers. Many question their sense, but none question their scholarship. The magus Celeres, head of Cunfin, is the world's foremost scholar on the Grail, King Arthur and Merlin. He is very hospitable, if very odd, and possesses many books on the Grail and Arthurian times, as well as French Romances and British history.

Lastly, the book goes into adventure ideas, and the only thing I see the need to bring up here is the Children of Odin , a Hermetic mystery cult that views itself as the inheritors of the power of the Viking raiders. The cult is actually quite new, only about a decade old, and its philosophy is, in truth, pure power. Its leader, Queen Skuld, believes that Normandy rightly belongs to the Normans and, perhaps not coincidentally, is a direct descendent of Rollo. She and her followers seek to reverse the French annexation of Normandy. Most magi care little for such mundane power, so Skuld has enticed her followers with secrets of Viking magic in the form of using personal life energy to boost spells and specialization in shapeshifting. The cult is honestly tiny, and exists solely because Skuld is pretty good at tricking young magi into believing her secrets are potent and worth supporting her for. In all honesty, she's pretty likely to be a fraud unless the GM really wants her to have some rune magic.

The End!

Choose: Choices are: the True Lineage Houses of Hermes and their secrets (Houses of Hermes: True Lineages), Mystery Cults (The Mysteries, Revised Edition), the Mystery Cult Houses (Houses of Hermes: Mystery Cults), more depth on Covenants (Covenants), the Societates Houses (Houses of Hermes: Societates), academic life (Art and Academe), nobility (Lords of Men), the Church (The Church) or Germany (Guardians of the Forests: The Rhine Tribunal).


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Lords of Men

So you want to be a king, hm? Well, politics in the noble courts run on gratitude, and any noble is going to need to understand that. Your advancement depends on the whims of those more potent than you. Connections are vital. The center of this is the game's new Gratitude system, by which you can earn favor by going above and beyond for your patrons. Why does this need numbers? Because nobles care about who is in favor with who, and may well make enemies of those preferred over them. And because gratitude is a currency to be spent. Earning rank and other priveleges expends the favor that your lord holds you in - it has been returned, and you must earn it again. After all, you got what you wanted.

Of course, power can also be earned by inheritance - but as anyone who's played Crusader Kings can tell you, that's easier said than done. People are born, people die, and it happens unexpectedly. Very unexpectedly.

Roll for random child death.

See, family is important. Any noble is going to have a family and retinue. They're expected to favor their extended families when seeking vassals and retainers, supposedly because family is more loyal. Male relatives are useful for holding offices, especially, and female relatives are often used to seal alliances through marriage. Sometimes it works the other way around, too. Bastards are especially valued - in most places, they can't inherit . They have no incentive to overthrow their legitimate siblings, and are entirely dependent on their goodwill. If you don't feel like personally designing it, the book then includes a basic system for seeing how many children a noble has and how loyal they are.

In many areas, the lands of a man are divided among his sons when he dies. Especially in areas influenced by the Normans, however, this is seen as a recipe for squabbling and instead all land goes to the nominated heir, or if there isn't one, the eldest son. This keeps the estate together, but also gives younger sons reason to go to war against their brothers. The primary means of avoiding this are fourfold. First, younger brothers and nephews are given choice offices in the noble retinue. Second, the father's lands are kept together if inherited, but conquered land or land earned via marriage often gets handed over to younger sons. Third, if a lord gains wardship of an heiress, she will usually be married to a landless son to provide for him. Fourth, sections of the main estate, called appanages, may be given to younger sons to rule over. These lands cannot be easily be resumed by the primary family and many frown on them, saying it's just a slower way of dividing the estate. In most families, however, a mix of war and infant fatality prevent that sort of problem. Without a male heir, lands are divided between the daughters of the last lord, to prevent son-in-laws from going to war, and also to give land to the Church through any daughters who became nuns. This is one reason a noble may lack a fully contiguous territory - your average family lacks a male heir about once every four generations, causing churn.

Your average noble is, of course, either married or seeking a marriage. Got to keep the heirs coming. They also have military in their retinue. Knights may have a pair of servants, while a wealthy lord will never travel without eight to ten knights during peacetime, perhaps with other warriors as well. These are known as the lord's mesnie. Being in the mesnie is valuable - your food and board are paid for, you profit from any wars the lord fights and you may well be rewarded for service with land. The mesnie is usually filled with young men from the extended family or those of the neighbors, generally younger sons who will not inherit, though some lords prefer to befriend heirs. Mesnie knights are expected to be loyal to their lord above all else, but in practice common sense is used. While ideally a knight will be willing to follow his lord even into Hell, as some were during the recent English civil wars, in practice the mesnie is expected to desert their lord when the lord begins failing, and there is no shame in that. A mesnie knight is known as a bachelor, showing he has a patron. The leader of the mesnie is the carissimus, or captain, who is either the lord's best friend or just so skilled that they must lead because no one can best them. A powerful noble's carissimus is often landed, but will still live with or near their lord's household.

And then, of course, you have your clerical and menial retinue. Yes, many nobles are literate, but writing is so dull and time-consuming, so clerks are employed to write letters. Most are priests, but in some parts of Europe, a sort of professional estate manager exists. They have education and skill, but no priestly duties. In a large estate, this part of the household is the chancery. They have a different set of values than the military retinue, but usually get on with only some degree of tension. In smaller household, the priests are often brothers to the knights, while in larger ones they tend to have more financial and legal autonomy.

Many lords also maintain contact with criminals, using their services to harm rivals. Richer nobles may even employ a criminal exclusively, while poorer nobles will just hire them. Criminals are especially useful to lady nobles, who otherwise may lack authority. There are rules given for hiring skilled criminal professionals and what you might get them to do. (Assassination, beatings, bribery, kidnapping, arson, that kind of thing.)

Now, everyone knows that hereditary vassals can be unreliable, so a good lord will invest their powers into officers, loyal people who hold some of their responsibilities. The power is usually more than is strictly needed to fulfill the duties of office, so the offices are often sought as prizes. Women can be officers, and it is very traditional for a wife to be her husband's steward or treasurer. The rarest kind of office for a woman is one with military command, but it is not completely unheard of. Some women do hold land, after all, and lead armies.

Officers can include the Admiral of the Navies, though it is actually quite novel and rare for a court to maintain a standing navy - traditionally, you just hire or requisition one. Admiral is actually an Arabic term, not widely in use yet. The Butler is nominally the wine steward, responsible for feeding the court. This takes a lot of money, so butlers tend to oversee parts of the demesne set aside to produce food. Butlers command vast wealth and effectively control the taxing power the court holds against towns. The Chancellor is technically the master of the lord's correspondence - and in practice, that means chief advisor on foreign relations and the Church. It's a very lucrative, powerful role and controls any vacant Church lands the lord has. It is almost always held by a priest, and sometimes combined with the role of personal confessor. Many chancellors maintain private agents and criminals.

The Chamberlain is responsible for the lord's chamber - that is, where the lord is staying and the housing of the retinue and personal possessions. They lack the raw power of other offices, but are highly influential and have much access to the lord, more than any other office. In many holdings, the lord's wife is his chamberlain. The Constable means different things in different realms. In Britain, it is anyone with a royal office, and similarly in France, but it often specifically refers to the French leader of armies, whom the British would call a marshal. The Counselor is...well, any member of the lord's council, which is to say the people the lord feels give actually useful advice and so attend him. Generally it is held with another office, but not always. Women are often on the councils of their relatives, if they have any political inclination.

The Justiciar is the enforcer of the law. Since that's highly lucrative in many demesnes, the office is hard to control, and often the lord will just resume the title and make lesser offices for more local enforcers. The justiciar is also the title given to most regents when the lord is insane or a minor. Sometimes it will be the mother, if she is known for political skill and is well-liked or at least a good compromise. The Marshal is the leader of the lord's bodyguard and, by extension, the armies. They must also raise and provision the army. The Sheriff, Bailie and Senechal share similar roles. The sheriff is a British lord's representative in each shire, keeping the peace in exchange for the right to collect local taxes (keeping any difference between taxes collected and those actually owed the lord). They are a magistrate in local matters (keeping any fines), and commonly they are also the earl of the local shire. The bailiff in England is any officer, but in France it's more like the sheriff only slightly less corrupt in most cases. The senechal is similar. The Steward oversees all parts of the court not explicitly the domain of another office, and typically the steward is a woman. The Treasurer oversees te lord's wealth, and may have strong legal roles and oversee taxation, or may be more limited. Many rich lords have several treasuries with their own treasurers.

NExt time: Vassals


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Lords of Men

So, in theory, a vassal is your chief lieutenant or one of them. However, thanks to the flaws of the feudal system, most lords operate through officers instead of vassals, or officers who just happen to also be vassals. Lieges are in constant negotiation with their vassals, able to utilize their resources fully only via a mix of friendship, charisma and menace. The fundamental job of a vassal is to provide resources during crises. Why would you want vassals? Some kings try to minimize them, claiming that without vassals there is greater stability, but all such attempts have ended badly. Regardless of whether nobles are inefficient or not, they exist and have the power to crush the resistance of weaker kings.

Initially, most vassalage was voluntary, with nobles coming together to elect a king for war and the settling of disputes. Primogeniture, however, is the new order of the day - elective monarchs are now relatively rare. That said, there are still reasons to raise vassals. They let you pay a noble with land, while not losing all the rights associated with that land. Mustering armies and conquest are best rewarded with land, as is traditional, to encourage your vassals to excel in conflicts. Further, the feudal bond unites liege and vassal together in a form of truce. It is considered a great crime to threaten your vassal or your liege, at least in theory, and doing so is bad for your reputation. If you have conflicting interests, you have at least publically agreed not to directly fight over them. Vassalage also prevents genocides! When you invade the land next door, it's rarely possible to kill all the heirs. The nobility of Europe is just too closely tied by marriages. If you kill enough, some other, more powerful noble will claim inheritance and hit you while you're weak from the old wars. The main way around this is to kill your neighbor and select a claimant to their title from their extended family, who will become your vassal. Most families have a few estranged cousins who'll accept the offer.

And, of course, there's money. Vassals pay taxes. In England, for example, a vassal owes his lege one year's income when the title is assumed, usually payable within five years. This tax is called relief, and it is calculated based on the estate when it was first handed out, not based on any improvements. Generally it is accepted as five pounds per manor, or 100 pounds for greater barons, regardless of their actual income. The debt can be commuted by service, too. And if you die and your lord raises your son, your son doesn't owe the relief when he ends the regency. Beyond that, a lord is owed other taxes, called aids. They're to be used sparingly - typically, they're collected when a son is knighted or a daughter is married, but nobles get upset if you do it too often. Aid is also commonly collected if your lord owes relief to another lord.

A vassal is also legally required to provide military aid in the form of one knight per manor the fief contained when it was first handed out. In some families, that is only a fraction of the available wealth and power, and a well-disposed vassal might well give extra assistance, and be rewarded by a greater share of any booty seized in the war. Typically, a powerful landowner will be required to give 20 or so knights to a king, possibly including the landowner themselves. It is possible to have multiple lieges, so you can end up assisting both sides of a war if you're unlucky. While knights are the ones most commonly sent by obligations, a noble often also has a levy, a large group of peasant warriors that can be mustered as infantry. The length of time a vassal is required to provide warriors varies by kingdom, but it's rarely long enough to complete a siege, so kings often must pay extra money in those cases and allow the army to sack the besieged castle or town when it falls.

A vassal can send money instead of knights. This is called scutage, the fine for non-attendance, and allows the liege to hire mercenaries instead. Many greater nobles may be instructed to give scutage instead of most of their army if a war is expected to involve multiple protracted sieges. In England, typical scutage is 2 pounds per knight that would have been sent.

A lord has the right to summon any vassal to give advice. This allows them to control vassal movements, which can be quite powerful, as well as forcing the vassal to make public statements regarding their views on contentious problems. A vassal asked to attend court must go, or will be fined or even have their lands seized. They can't leave without the lord's permission, and so potentially rebellious nobles can be forced to show their hand by either refusing summons or fleeing the court. The use of the advice is good for building consensus among vassals, too, and helps the lord weigh vassal interests against each other and play favorites if they like.

Further, a lord is often the ward of a vassal's heirs. Essentially, in the ideal version of this, a child is taken from his family at the age of five, joining the lord's court until puberty, when they become a squire. This teaches manners and warrior skills. In some places, the knight they squire under knights them, but in most cases that actually requires a baron or even a king. The heir is, in essence, a hostage to their parents' good behavior, and it is considered just by many to kill a child whose parents rebel. However, it is better to defeat the rebel, kill them and then claim wardship of their land on behalf of the child. The revenue is then kept by the liege until the child turns 21 (or, if female, marries). If a ward's father dies, the liege has right to determine who they marry, allowing them some control of vassal politics. Similarly, a liege is granted wardship over widows of vassals in most cases. (Rarely, a woman will just become the vassal instead.) In such wardship, the liege has control of the widow's finances, though she is entitled to a portion of the estate - generally a third of it. Traditionally, a lord is not meant to sell this right, but the privelege can and often is abused. The Church does not approve of this at all, but it still happens.

We then get the Affinity system - essentially, a way of using your title and rank to get bonuses to dealing with people and making local allies, so long as what's being done is related to the title and rank. We also get the Agent system, a method of controlling subordinates to serve your interests politically. Hermetic magi, nonpolitical people, indirect subordinates, hirelings and PCs can never be agents - agents are people who directly serve you because of close personal ties to you. They muster their resources on your behalf. Nobles also have reputations to manage, which agents can help with. Reputation is vital, because it tells people what you want and how to treat you. Remember: war is not to utter annihilation in all but the rarest cases. It is honorable, even skillful, to avoid battle entirely. It is acceptable to retreat and plot for years before continuing a campaign. Bargaining for peace is respected. Combatants change sides often. And thus, it is vital to maintain your Reputation.

How can women play the game? Well, the easiest way is crossdressing. But let's assume you don't want that. Women have six methods to gain control of land. First, if the male head of the household is absent, the wife controls the land and acts as liege. Many noblewomen act as stewards and care for land, maintaining entire networks of agents without any regard for their husbands. Women can inherit land, and will be recognized as liege in those cases. Most nations have sons inherit over daughters, but daughters are given preference over more distant relatives. A woman who rules a fief will usually retain rulership even if she marries (except in England). Rarely, a woman may be granted land for exceptional political favors or deeds, or by becoming the mistress of a noble and bearing a child. Some women do it the hard way: they conquer and seize land directly. And trust me, that works out fine for them, so long as they're formidable enough to hold it and have a friendly enough monarch to accept their claim.

Some women instead become nuns, seeking power via the church. This is common among younger daughters. Nuns are considered wards of the bishop, may not be forced to marry and are no longer answerable to liege or even father. Nunneries and nuns hold a great deal of land, and their estates are not divided by inheritance. Young women may become nuns for a temporary period, and as a result a sufficiently powerful noble can force a woman out of a nunnery to marry, but this is exceptionally rare. It's common for the female relations of the loser of a war to retreat to nunneries, to avoid being at the mercy of the victors.

Next time: Chivalric titles

Regions & Nobility

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Lords of Men

All right, starting us off is the French and English system, based on the Carolingian Empire's institutions. The Squire (Armiger, Ecuyer) is, strictly speaking, a young person training under a knight, but it has evolved to have a second meaning. It refers to someone who could be a landed knight and does service like a landed knight, but chooses not to formally accept a higher station. In England, this is usually because of the taxes. A Knight (Chevalier, Miles) is a professional soldier. It can theoretically be given by any knight to anyone, but in many areas use of the right is a crime, so a knight who knights someone must pay a fine. A bacheler knight is, as noted, a knight in a lord's personal mesnie, generally in greater trust than most vassals and generally get paid in coin rather than land. A very wealthy lord may grant a bacheler a manor, however. A knight banneret is a knight who leads other knights into battle, named for the large banner they carry. Any knight can claim this title by arriving for battle with ten knights in his livery and willing to obey him.

A Baron (Baro) initially referred to anyone hlding land directly from a king. In 1220, however, the term refers to lesser landholding lords and generally use some seperate title - you are Lord of the Barony of Blackhill, for example, not Baron of Blackhill. Technically, you see, baron isn't a title. A greater baron is specifically someone who holds some land direct from a king and has expenses of at least 400 pounds per year - roughly equivalent to owning 20 manors. Such barons have at least 20 knights, 20 sergeants and 200 infantry, but that's just a minimum. They are the lowest rank of Great Nobles.

Earls and Counts (Comes, Comte) are major landholders. Earl is the basic English title and is usually used instead of Count in England and Scotland. They are GreaT Nobles, with yearly expenditures approaching a thousand pounds. They are generally required to bring at least 50 knights to battle, plus sergeants and 500 infantry. Of course, the muster is usually commuted to payment. A viscount (vice-comes, viscomte) was initially a count's deputy, but in 1220 it is used for lesser counts in France, and in England for sheriffs. A count palatine or marcher lord is a count given extra powers to deal with a difficult border. The title is pretty much exclusive to England, what with the Welsh and Scots borders.

Dukes (Dux, Duc) were originally war leaders. In France, it is the highest rank of vassal. Britain doesn't use it. Dukes are immensely rich and powerful, sometimes moreso than kings they serve. All Dukes are Great Nobles, commanding at least 75 knights, 75 sergeants and 750 infantry. Also, they probably have Vassals of their own. The King (Rex, Roi), of course, pays allegiance to no man except perhaps a pope or emperor. Originally kings were elected, but elective kingship is mostly dead in western Europe, especially after 1215, when William Marshal defeated the forces of Prince Louis, who had been offered England's crown. France is nominally elective, but it's traditional to force the electors to vote and acclaim the king's eldest son. Philip Augustus, the latest king, has not even bothered to do so because he is the most significant landholder in France after crushing many of his vassals and doesn't need to. A lesser noble can claim the crown, but effectively only becomes king when another significant power recognizes him as one - generally the pope.

Now, the German system. It's largely abstract - Germany is a patchwork of local titles and special cases. It's descended at the core from the Franks, but has grown apart. There are three parallel ways to get a title. First, some come from the emperor, and you know you have one of those if your title is prefixed by reichs-. Some come from local kings and have no particular prefix. Some come from the mists of history, are noted by the prefix frei-. An imperial knight has more status than a free knight, who has more than a common knight.

Herr (Generosus, Lord) is used to refer to any noble lacking a superior title. It's pretty much the same as lord for the English gentry. Freiherr is a noble with an allodial holding, and most are equivalent to minor counts. However, an allod varies wildly in size, so it can be much smaller. A Ritter (Miles, Knight) is a cavalry soldier, equivalent to other knights. Some, the ministeriales (ministers) are not free men - essentially, they serve in return for upkeep and perform various services for a lord. They're basically similar to knights, though.

Graf (Comes, Count/Earl) is essential similar to a count. A burggraf over sees a town, a landgraf is a graf with more land than usual. A burggraf is roughly similar to a viscount, just below a real graf, and a landgraf is just above. The markgraf (marchio, margrave) is a relatively rare title initially granted to grafs with fuller legal powers to deal with borders. Typically, these borders no longer really exist, but are remnants of Imperial expansion. Some marches have become duchies at this point, while others have dissolved to smaller fiefs. The most potent margraves are on par with dukes.

Herzog (Dux, Duke) is essentially identical to the French duke. They were former warlords originally. Many duchies have been broken into counties or risen to become smaller kingdoms. Still, the title persists in the Holy Roman Empire because they aren't allowed to take the title 'king.' Konig , (Rex, King) is a title usually monopolized by the Holy Roman Emperor, though as of 1220, his son is technically the King of Romans and Germans, with the Emperor as regent. The Duke of Bohemia is also allowed to claim the title King. The current Emperor is also King of Sicily, but that is a personal possession, not part of the empire. He promised the Pope he'd seperate the two roles, but eventually decided not to give his son the title and serve as regent. Romischer Kaiser (Romanorum Imperator, Roman Emperor) is, naturally, the Holy Roman Emperor. The title is given by the electors of the Holy Roman Empire, though the name will not appear for another 30 years or so. The Pope can technically veto the choice but in practice can't. The current Holy Roman Emperor was elected in 1215 but will not be anointed by the Pope until mid-1220. He's based out of Sicily and is noted for being cultured, openminded about religion and interested in magic, though he spends a lot of time on feuds with warlords or the Pope.

The Iberian model is based around military rights and needs due to the Muslims nearby. Noble revenue is based on towns, not farms. The rights to a settlement are granted by a fuero, a charter from the founding noble, and vary widely. Many even limit the noble's powers over the town as well as the town's rights. Infanzone is a variable term but generally speaking it refers to the lowest rank of the gentry, though in some areas it means free peasants. Caballero is a mounted warrior, with the fuero determining what great is needed to qualify. The rank is prized for its status and tax exemptions, and they're roughly equivalent to knights, though usually without fiefs; rather, they are men of the town. A caballero villano is a knight with particularly close ties to a town, whose family tends to live there and who is particularly wealthy. A caballero hidalgo or fidalgo is an ancestral caballero, whose grandparents were also caballeros. They often own some land.

The Ricohombre form the upper class of noble, generally claiming descent from Frankish Marks or Visigoth kings. Their powers vary, but typically they are required to provide two months per year of military service and may raise castles if the king gives permission. They are somtimes known as barones or condes, and can be considered somewhere between or around Counts and Barons.

Under the Italian model, nobility is simple: People who own a lot of land are contes , but less potent than other counts because all the major towns are ruled by commune or the Pope, so they provide no money. Also, all the counties in Sicily are specifically poor and small by foreign standards. The counts are served by barones , but the title refers to landed knights, household knights and unlanded gentry. Unusually, northern Italy has the Patrizio (patrician) between squite and knight - a member of the ruling elite of a town. The definition varies a bit with each town, though.

Under the Byzantine model, the realm was largely centralized, though frontiers were divided into themes, each ruled by a strategos (general) in a similar manner to counties. After the fall of Constantinople, successor states have taken over that role with rulers called despots by those who do not like them. Their rule is similar to fiefs, but highly dependent on mercenaries for military power. In the Latin Empire, the structure is basically French.

Next time: Wizards and the Nobility.

Code of Hermes

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Nyaa posted:

Wait, the court of faeries can just kidnap anyone? They can pass through ward and aegis? They can just kidnap a mage sleeping in his lab?

Nah, the Aegis and wards will protect you. But they can just slip into some dude's castle or farmhouse and just kind of take them away. Most people do not live with the protections wizards do. And of course a very powerful faerie can ignore wards that aren't equally powerful.

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Lords of Men

So, the Code of Hermes explicitly forbids "interference" with the mundanes, lest it bring ruin on the Order. It is quite possibly the most abused part of the Code, with the possible exception of molesting the fae. It's just not possible any more to live without dealing with the nobility, really. Of course, interference is also quite lucrative in some cases, and how it's defined varies by Tribunal. Conspiracy with nobles is forbidden, in the sense that magi must not take sides in disputes, but fortunately, mortal society is easy to disrupt. Mundane lords fight all the time , so to destroy a foe it is not necessary to openly ally with the foe's rivals. Assisting the enemy or your enemy is not conspiracy, especially if your ally does not have knowledge of what you do. Conspiracy requires working together for common cause.

More dangerous is the production of money by magic. It's not a hard spell by any means, but many Tribunals forbid the making of valuable goods by magic, or order that it only be done if it can't be traced. House Mercere, of course, is always happy to take valuable goods and move them somewhere they can be sold, for a cut of the profits. A side effect of this magical power is the ability to reduce the tax burden on the peasants of your covenant to nothing and even pay them wages. Just...be careful with it. Also, be careful with magic items. Sure, it's a great business, selling magical goods or longevity rituals to nobles, but only when you're trading in services. Trading for land, money or political power is not technically permited and has been illegal since 1061. There is, however, a loophole. You may sell the goods to a mundane servant, who can then sell them to outsiders. That means that sale of magic items is actually quite easy and regulations occur on the Tribunal level. In most Tribunals, however, there's a limit on how much you can sell. Most commonly, it's one item to a mortal per year, so long as you maintain the chain of intermediaries. Given the Primus of House Verditius has openly said he'll be pushing for looser controls, things may get rather chaotic for the Order in the next decades.

What's safe? Well, "involvement" is not "interference." Involvement is the word used for interactions that don't break the Code. Definitions vary across Tribunals, but some things can be generalized, so long as your actions are proportionate to the threat you face. (For example: if a noble steals a keg of your beer, it may well be appropriate and legal to steal something of equal value, or beat up his taxmen, or burn 'you owe me a keg of beer' into his door. The Iberian Tribunal has ruled that it is very much not appropriate to burn down his castle and spell the message out in the ashes.)

Self-defense is the big one. You can defend yourself from harm, which is defined rather broadly. In the Rhine, many magi claim immunity from taxes as alloidal covenants, and taking tax by force is considered harm. Nobles who try to clear land containing vis sources are also considered to be causing harm. On the other hand, in England, covenants must pay a legal fee to rent their land, though attempts to increase the fee are considered harm. Further, you are allowed to do such things for a sodalis, a fellow member of your covenant, that they might request reasonably in aid of defense. If your sodalis is a prisoner, it's fine to break them out. If a Redcap is harmed, it's fine to humiliate his foes. And it is never a crime to kidnap a child with the Gift. Further, the Order allows magi to act as enemies of anyone who publically declares intent to purge wizards from an area. Such declarations were fairly common during the Schism War, and the Order ruled that if someone declares themselves the foe of all magi, they're willing to take them at their word.

Most nobles are aware of magi, though what they actually know is a mix of liea, folktales and facts. Most nobles know the following truths: Magi usually live in the wilderness. They are part of a larger group that forbids them from ruling lands distant from where they live. They are divided into families by the magic they do. They cannot teach their own children or each others' children, but instead take misfits as apprentices. (Well, okay, that's not quite true, but it's true enough.) They are forbidden to take sides in war, but can fight in self-defense. They are served by a caste of messengers that were red hats. They teach cruel lessons to those that harm their messengers. They humiliate and kill those who try to frame their foes for harming the messengers. They have animal companions with human intellect. They grow and harvest strange trees for power. They hunt magical beasts and faeries. They leave in response to complaints and act on just pleas, which they usually have some system in place to receive. They live longer than normal people. They sell magic items, including methods to lengthen life. They had a terrible war centuries ago which destroyed much of the landscape, because some of them turned to Satan.

Senior nobles of scholarly bent also know the following: Powerful Christian magi belong to the Order. There are twelve Houses, each with a different magical style. The Thirteenth House was destroyed for paganism and Satanism. Typically, they know the names of prominent Houses in the area, such as Flambeau in the Iberian peninsula. They know the name and approximate boundaries of the Tribunal they are in. They know the Order is democratic. It has laws enforced by its members. Magi usually live in places that feel strange and vivid. Kings and senior church officials have some sort of protection from magic. Carrying relics also provides such protection.

House Jerbiton spreads several common misconceptions about magi among the nobles, such as: All magi make people feel uncomfortable. All magi scare animals. A magus loses most of their power if you take their staff away. Silent magic is impossible. Magi wear robes with stars or mystic symbols on them, usually blue. Magi wear conical hats with brims, usually blue. Magi were given their role by a prominent historical figure, such as Arthur, Constantine or Charlemagne. Nobles who regularly interact with magi, especially non-Jerbiton magi, are more likely to realize these are misconceptions.

So, why don't magi just break the feudal system? I mean, obviously they could revolutionize Europe. But they don't. They're largely peripheral to society. Why? Well, there's a few ways for the GM to answer that. The first way is to just ignore it - suspend your disbelief and move on. But if you can't, there are answers. One is that the Code of Hermes works as intended. This may seem implausible, but only because you don't understand the underlying structure of the world, and don't realize that the Code is perfectly tailored to preserve the societal order. The second is that it's pure luck - so far, the world has just not been massively changed from history, but nothing actually prevents that from happening. Third is that there is a conspiracy of hidden forces among the kingdoms of the world to ensure that the status quo remains intact.

But what forces could do that? Well, first up: God. Understanding the nature and will of God is nearly impossible, and often appears contradictory. Many magi believe God does not want them to meddle in mortal affairs. After all, simple observation proves that God doesn't like it when they do magic in cities or on holy men. And yet, God also does not strike them down or send angels after them, save perhaps for diabolists or pagan magi. And even that's rare. Such magi would say that God prefers the Order to act as it does and the Divine Plan ensures that status quo. Or perhaps it's not God. Maybe it's Hell. The current social structure tempts the powerful, causes wars and spreads suffering. Nobles believe they can reduce the suffering with bigger, more decisive armies, fueled by larger, harsher taxes and greater atrocities. Demons prevent the change and reform of the social system to ensure that suffering continues.

Or maybe it's not God or demons. Maybe it's faeries. I mean, not on purpose, but by accident. Faeries force people to play out stories, but they aren't creative enough to invent new ones. They are, thus, reservoirs for conservative social roles. While it's unlikely that the faeries would try to stop reformers, they slow social change merely by their nature and existence in thousands of little ways, reinforcing feudalism. Some magi belive that deep in Arcadia, there are potent fae who no longer need to manifest, and are instead fed by the narrative of everyday life. Some suggest that if life were to fundamentally change for most people, these fairies would be forced to come to the world to defend their vitality.

And maybe it's wizards. I mean, feudalism could exist in part because magi find it a convenient way to hobble the power of nobility. Feudalism distributes power into antagonistic blocs, making it easy for magi to inconspicuously favor one side in mundane affairs. A series of magically-ensured good harvests allow a local warlord to hire mercenaries to attack his rival, giving cover for magi to assassinate one of their foes without any crime, sin or evidence. The perpetually poor and petty nobles feud constantly, making them easy dupes for clever magi.

Next time: Fun and how to have it.

All Sorts of Fun

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Lords of Men

So what people do for fun? Especially nobles? Nobles tend to have expensive and time-consuming hobbies; they can afford to. Children, of course, do what children always do - they explore, they fight, they play with toys. Boys are encouraged to show leadership and emulate warriors. Sometimes they die in these games. And I say children as a whole - noble children are not segregated from common children, except perhaps by distance. All of a household's children play together.

People also keep pets. They love pets. All classes of society keep pets, even monks and nuns. Dogs ar everywhere, and nobles keep more expensive pets, like songbirds, monkeys or magpies trained to mimic human voices. Noble women favor tiny lapdogs, because they are clearly not working animals. Conspicuous consumption is the order of the day with nobles - it is admired far more than frugality. Many adults also enjoy sports - ball games are particularly popular, such as handball or bittle-battle (which is something like golf). There is also stoolball, in which ladies on stools attempt to avoid being struck by balls bowled or kicked at them, and racket games using shuttlecocks, such as badminton. Throwing stones, weightlifting and contests of strength are also common, as is ice skating in colder climes, and snowball fights.

More cerebral people prefer board games, commonly chess due to its supposed relation to military strategy. Chess has many variants, often involving dice used to determine what pieces can be moved or how far. Merels, also called nine men's morris, is played, as is fox and geese, a game related to tafl games. Tafl has many other variants, too. Only in the last century has chess really started to supplant tafl as the favorite strategy game of nobles, and both are played extensively. Backgammon is popular, and for the mathematically skilled, Rithomachia , also called the Philosopher's Game, exists. I can't even begin to explain how it works. Board games are played by all classes, but skill in them is important to nobles, for they demonstrate understanding of the arts of war - or so people believe. Playing well earns respect, so long as you are polite about it.

Gambling is also common, though playing cards have yet to be invented. Dice games are popular, such as hazard or raffle. (Raffle involves throwing three dice, with the first player to roll a matching pair winning.) Those are the simplest games - more complex ones exist, too. People will gamble on practically anything, however, from races to the weather. And where people gamble, they drink. Drinking and sharing stories is a common pastime. The nobles have better alcohol, but would never fit in to the rough drinking halls of the common folk. Instead, they are entertained by musicians, singers or storytellers, perhaps traveling minstrels. And with music comes dance. The most popular dance is the carol, essentially a circular line dance or a processional with couples. It's something along the lines of Simon Says as a dance. The Church does not always approve of such extended bodily contact, but...well, it's popular. The current courtly fashion coming out of Naples is the salterello, which involves giant leaping steps and jumps. In most older music, it is common for the dancers and musicians to sing along, but purely instrumental tunes have begun to pop up. Skill in dancing is a source of great pride and good reputation for both etiquette and athletic skill.

And when you're going to dance and drink, you need food. Peasants hold communal feasts for holidays or marriages, often marked by drinking, dancing and lewdness, but the noble feast is something apart from that. A feast is put on in celebration and to entertain guests. They are rather common, and a host who does not hold a feast when they have guests is going to get a poor reputation. There's a whole lot that goes into preparing a noble feast, though - lots of cooking, lots of meat, lots of fish. Spices are appreciated, but generally in very small quantities because it is so expensive. Much of the food is quite bland, as a result. And of course you need massive amounts of bread and eggs. Fruit, too. And once must, of course, always keep in mind rank and alliances with seating, so as not to insult people. The practice of table manners is becoming popular in courts and is seen as a mark of noble birth, as is polite conversation and restraint. Gluttons and boors are so low-class, though of course at the less important tables in a feast, they are lesser sins.

Now, let's talk about hunting. Hunting is one of the great noble pastimes. The Church may not appreciate tournaments, but hunting is a vigorous and manly exercise suitable for nobles! It is expected that all noble men will hunt at least a little, and also many ladies. After all, it is an enjoyable and unsinful activity that increases martial skill and helps fill the larder. The lower classes may also hunt in specified areas, and many villages in the Pyrenees or forests of Germany have specialized hunters. However, in Britain and France, hunting is exclusively for nobles or clergymen who hold the rights. Hunting with hounds is especially prestigious, and nobles prefer to avoid snares and traps for their associations with common hunting. Magic and supernatural aid, however, are within the "rules" of noble hunting, so long as they are not rude (such as spells which merely cause the prey to drop dead and not provide challenge).

Hunting hounds, unlike most dogs, are bred and raised by specialist kennels and trained dog handlers. They are quite expensive. The primary classes of hunting hound are thus: Lymers, a jowly dog related to the modern bloodhound who are bred for sense of smell and quiet tracking ability. They are taught to remain silent and to find trails. Running dogs are a sort of dog trained in pairs, likewise bred for good noses but far less stealthy and quiet than lymers. Their duty is pursue and harry the prey once found, and resemble modern foxhounds. The most famous of the kind is the Saint Hubert, bred at the Swiss monastery of the same name, and while they are slow, they have the best noses of all running dogs. Greyhounds are the next breed, the best of which are found in Scotland. They are used to catch and bring down the prey, but they are very expensive and rare outside northern Europe. The Irish prefer the shaggy wolfhound for the same role. The greyhound is immense speed but poor scent. The alaunt, or Great Dane, is used to make the final kill. They are powerful beasts held on leashes for much of the hunt, and are born to fight. Their task is to hold the prey still so the hunters may strike the killing blow. They are frequently muzzled, for they are a vicious breed. When and where greyhounds and wolfhounds cannot be found, the alaunt is used in their place. The most vicious hunting dog, however, is the mastiff, bred for strength. The mastiff is used to hunt boar and bear, and are formidable foes even for a human. They are used as guard dogs or sheep dogs as well, and can be commonly found in all classes of society. For lesser hunts, there is the harrier, a small dog which chases hares and is used in bow and stable hunting. There is also the bird dog, trained for hawking. The best bird dogs are from Iberia, and are sometimes called spaniels or espagnols. Exceptional kennels may also keep pairs of leopards, but this is extremely rare and only the wealthiest can afford such extravagance.

A hunt is a full-day activity - one with complex and detailed systems! It begins with the Quest, an hour before dawn, in which all the huntsmen head out with lymers on foot, seeking prey in different directions. Typically a feast the prior night will have established what is being hunted. The job of the huntsmen is now to find a suitable beast in good condition, keeping the lymer quiet and examining the area for droppings and marks to establish the quarry's age and condition. Then, it's back to the host's home for breakfast. Once the huntsmen have returned and any guests for the hunt are awakened, breakfast is served and the huntsmen pass around the animal feces they've found for the guests to inspect, to select the best and strongest beast. The succesful huntsman is praised and rewarded, and the guests head out to get their horses. The lymers are taken back out to act as spotters for the prey, while the huntsmen take the running dogs, mastiffs, greyhounds and alaunts into position in either pairs or groups of four. Once the prey is found, the dogs are let loose to chase it while the nobles gossip. Once the chase is good and started, the nobles follow on their horses, trying to keep the prey running and tired. This can take hours. Once the prey is cornered by the dogs, the kill begins. The hunters dismount, and the host is usually the one to strike the killing blow with a sword, though this right can be given to a guest, and with dangerous beasts like boar or bears, the entire group may enter battle, or even call the huntsmen to aid with spears. Once the animal is slain, it is butchered in a process called the unmaking, and the dogs are given reward in offal and blood. The hunters set about skinning and cutting up the beast and the huntsmen bring it back for the larder. The hunters then return home at the end of the day for the feast, unless the prey died too fast, in which case the entire thing is begun again. Of course, this is for a full, formal hunt - not all are so organized.

Bow and stable hunting is different - the hunters divide into two groups: archers, who dress in green to camouflauge themselves, and the mounted huntsmen. An area of woodland is chosen, preferable with a cliff whose edge is guarded by peasants with sticks, to drive back any prey that flees that way. The archers on foot line the area while the horsemen and a team of running beaters make noise around a mile away. The hunters then ride forward slowly to flush out game for the archers to shoot. Typically, the archers wait until the prey is nearly on them, for fear of hitting a hunter. Lots of game can be taken this way, but it lacks the status of hounds. However, especially in Britain, Iberia, Italy and Russia it is an acceptable noble pursuit.

Next time: Horses, hawks and love.

Horses, Hawks, & Hearts

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Lords of Men

We've made clear that a hunter needs hounds, but they also need horses. In fact, everyone needs horses. Horses are a vital piece of noble life, and even life on some farms. Horses in this period are not divided by breed, but by suitability for roles. They may have pedigrees, to be sure, but at the most basic level a horse is described by what it is best at. Even a farm horse, though, is expensive and grants status. Horse theft is a capital offense, and everyone knows horse markets are dens of thieves and dishonest merchants. Only in Iberia and the Levant are horse traders respected.

What kind of horses are there? Well, top tier horses are noble horses, also called destriers. They cost a lot of money, and only the wealthiest nobles can afford them. They tend to be Spanish, and stand up to fifteen hands high. A disproportionate number of them are supernatural in nature, and destriers are the finest horses for tournaments. Other nobles possess the commoner courser or rouncey, also known as the warhorse. They are between fourteen and fifteen hands high, and while expensive, they are perhaps a sixth of the cost of the cheapest destrier. They are utterly unsuited to use as pack animals or workhorses, thanks to their lively temperaments, and are also poor choices for long journeys. They are, however, combat trained. The rouncey tends to be more suitable for general roles, but also lower status and far less fierce.

Travelers prefer riding horses, or palfreys. They can be used in the hunt or combat by a skilled rider, but they are hardly specialized for it. They're more suitable for long journeys, able to manage up to 30 miles a day on good road. Most palfreys are mares, not stallions, and when a woman rides they are known as jennets, which are always mares. Note: riding side-saddle does not really happen , even for women, unless their gowns are particularly unsuited and the need is very urgent. It is not etiquette - it is forced by circumstance. A palfrey or jennet is a little over fourteen hands and is relatively cheap. For a horse. The hackney or draught horse is a large workhorse, up to sixteen hands, meant for general use and even some riding. They are slow, ponderous creatures ill-suited to combat or hunts, but if you don't want speed they make a good traveling horse. They are primarily used, however, for farmwork. They are very cheap, for horses, but no noble would ever be seen on a hackney. Last is the working pony, also known as a fell or Icelandic pony. They are suitable for the roughest terrain, and typically come from England, Scotland or Iceland. They prized for their ability to cross mountains and treacherous moors, and they're relatively cheap. They make excellent pack animals, especially where carts can't go, but they are completely unskilled in real combat.

Hawking is another important noble hobby, perhaps the only sport more prestigious than hunting. Hawking and falconry are truly noble pursuits - there's so much opportunity to spend vast sums of money on birds used to kill rabbits and smaller birds. There are two classes of bird: hawk and falcon. Keeping either is expensive and can be trouble if you also maintain a dove cote to feed the hawks, because doves are hated by peasants for eating the grain. And, of course, sometimes even the best-trained birds stray and go wild. The gyrfalcon, merlin, lanner and peregrine falcon are the most commonly kept falcons, while hawks include the goshawk and sparrowhawk.

Romance - more properly, fin' amors or courtly love - is another famous hobby of the nobility. It originates in France - specifically, Provence and Burgundy, though it was much popularized by Eleanor of Aquitane. Though beloved by nobles and troubadours, it also causes much scandal and is despised by the Church. The definitive work on the subject is the 1174 text Incipit liber amoris et curtesie , by Andreas Capellanus. It sets the rules of romance, and it makes very clear why controversy follows it and its topic. You see, Capellanus declares that true love is impossible between husband and wife, in contradiction to Church teachings (and many happy marriages). It follows, he says, that one must seek love outside the marriage bond, ideally in a love affair between noble suitor and married woman. (An unmarried woman, being obtainable, may provide poor ground for true love.)

The affair, of course, begins when a man is entranced by the beauty of a woman and becomes obsessed with winning her favor. Such pursuit must be by strict methods, commonly handsome appearance, honesty of character and eloquent speech. Acts of valor and heroism inspired by or dedicated to the lady are also important. Love, it must be said, knows no social bonds, and even a commoner can seek romance from any woman, even a queen. Only the clergy should avoid romance. (This, of course, does not sit well with the conservatives of the day or the Church. It endangers the social order!) Oh, and one must never seek the heart of a nun, for to do so is vile infamy and will ruin your reputation. Similarly, whores are off-limits, for that cheapens the noble romance to coarse commerciality.

You start out by loving from afar, in secret, taking every chance to be in your love's company and gaze on her adoringly. Eventually, you must profess your love, at which point she will chastely reject you, with scorn and coldness. This is intended. Even if she ardently desires you and deliberately sought your attention (for many women do initiate these romances by subtle encouragement) she must act cold and disgusted. This urges the lover to prove his devotion and pursue her, primarily with charm, gifts and performances in her honor - though never gifts of money, that would coarse. And, of course, discretion is vital - the husband must never know what is going on. At all times, the lover must be jealous and passionate, looking out for rivals and suspecting all. He must eschew all other ladies, for the pursue another or seek comfort elsewhere is darkest betrayal! He must obey his love's every whim and command, and must prove his moral worth, bravery and utter devotion.

At last, the lady may grant the lover her favor, and consummate the affair. This may or may not be sexual; it's entirely up to the couple, and in France and England especially, this love is stressed as entirely platonic, with denial and strict admonition against adultery. After all, did not Tristan and Iseult come to bad ends? In these northern regions especially, romance is a chaste game and may even be approved of by trusting husbands...though most husbands, fully aware that a bastard by another man is worthless, regard courtly love as dangerous and corrupting.

Andreas Capellanus listed twelve Laws of Love.

Andreas Capellanus posted:

1. You shall avoid avarice like a deadly pestilence and embrace its opposite.
2. You shall keep yourself chaste for the sake of her whom you love.
3. You shall not knowingly strive to break up a correct love affair that someone else is engaged in.
4. You shall not choose for your lover anyone whom a natural sense of shame forbids you to marry.
5. You shall completely avoid lying.
6. You shall not have many who know of your love affair.
7. Being obedient in all things to the commands of ladies, you shall ever strive to ally yourself to the service of love.
8. In giving and receiving love be modest at all times.
9. You shall speak no slander.
10. You shall not be a revealer of love affairs.
11. You shall be in all things polite and courteous.
12. You shall not exceed the desires of your lover.

And yes, for the record, I think courtly love is a little creepy .

At least there's Sidebar: Don't Be A Creep

Next time: Patronage and tournaments.


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Lords of Men

Patronage is pretty simple: you give land, money, favors or titles to loyal friends in order to reward them and show off your largesse. The people of the 1200s do not admire frugality at all. Quite the opposite, in fact. Lavish spenders among the nobility are highly admired, and generous gifts to friends, allies, artists or scholars is a great way to earn a good reputation. Or the Church, of course, which is the safest and easiest group to patron, since you can be fairly sure that no one will ever be mad at you for what the Church writes, creates or does. Patronage and largesse towards your peasantry is also much admired - it shows your generosity and your pious love of your people. Failure to spend your coin on something is practically a sin, anyway. After all, you have been chosen by God to be steward to great wealth, and to not use it is disrespectful of this gift!

Now, tournaments. A tournament is a useful venture - it grants combat experience, it earns reputation and it can earn wealthy for a skilled knight. They generally only last two days or so, and they're fairly common. On the first day, the knights arrive, find housing, feast and socialize. As the evening goes on and vespers is sung, the commencailles are held - individual trials of sword and lance in single combat. Jousts, duels, that kind of thing. These end when the light finally dies. The final day (usually the second of two) is the melee, a great mock battle between hundreds, even thousands of knights divided into two teams. The heralds call the knights together, and the younger knights make some more time for commencailles, in order to be seen by potential employers.

The main event starts with the regars, or review, in which both teams parade all their colors and show off their war cries. The teams are usually divided up on national or political lines, with team allegiance shown by pennons tied to lances or bridles. The heralds work hard to ensure the teams are roughly even in skill, and knights generally take reassignment with good grace. Then the lines are formed, and the estor, the signal to charge, is sounded. The knights charge, picking targets and going on the attack. After this, the sides turn and move to melee. The field is littered with small fights, as lone knights or small companies face each other.

Running a tournament is extremely expensive, and the heartland of the tournament circuit is France - though they can be found anywhere there are knights. Hosting a tournament can risk excommunication, as the Church does not really approve, but it is great for your reputation. You have to have space to do it, of course, and generally provide at least places where lodging can be found or made, though this can be as simple as telling the local peasants to rent space out to lodgers and setting aside a field for tents.

There are rules for the grand melee. First: the recets (marked safe havens) and any villages or churches on the field are safe. No fighting can be done in them, and those not taking part in the melee must not be molested. Beyond this, there's also some points of honor. If you enter a company into the melee, you ride with them, and you put yourself in harm's way. You obey the rules or you face a fine, especially if you damage Church or private property. Still, tactical advantage may outweight that threat.

The goal of the melee is to force fiance, or surrender, and thereby earn a ransom from your foe. This is usually the foe's horse, armor or even weapons. A rich foe may be worth quite a lot of money to defeat, and will be expected to pay it. Payment of the ransom is a matter of honor, after all, and those who welch earn a bad reputation. It is poor etiquette to ask more than your foe can afford, and there have been cases in which men have been forced by their peers to return the ransom of poor knights who could not afford the price. The wealthy actually expect ransoms suitable to their status and will be insulted if you demand a poor ransom. It's reasonable to take both horse and armor as ransom from a wealthy knight, and either horse or armor from the average knight, and perhaps just weapons for a poor knight. Service cannot be demanded as ransom, nor oaths of loyalty.

Because individual knights make easy targets, most enter as companies. A company can be any size, but must wear common colors and ride under a single banner to be identified. They engage as groups, generally no larger than ten people or so at the most, and large companies will generally break into smaller groups. It is fairly common for these groups to target lone knights, trying to grapple them from their horses and force them into powerlessness. Tournament combat is in theory nonlethal, with knights pulling blows, but in the heat of battle, real injuries may well be inflicted, either by accident or on purpose.

So what about those commencailles? They're vital to showcasing individual talent. You get your jousting, with each round being a single charge and time between to replace lance and shield if needed. In some cases, the only way to win is to unseat your foe. In other places, a winner will be declared after a number of rounds with neither foe being unseated based on who got hit worse or who broke more lances. In yet more places, the joust will just go on until one side submits, meaning that it will end not when unhorsed but after a continued engagement on foot. Fencing is also a common commencaille, with two knights facing off in a roped-off ring. The rules vary by tournament, sometimes restricting weapon choice or allowing weapon replacement mid-fight. For those of lower birth, bare-knuckle fighting is also common, and those looking to hire a good tough would do well to watch these fights.

Now, moving on past leisure, we'll...skip over most of the stuff on how fiefs are usually set up, because it's really just about common buildings and fields and so on. Let's talk about tax instead. A lord has a right to claim a tax when a peasant takes up residence on a piece of land, though the fee can vary depending on circumstances. When the head of a household dies, the heriot is collected. The heriot is a death duty, generally the peasant's finest beast or even something more expensive. In some lands, the death of a wife also triggers the heriot. The mortuary fine is also collected with the heriot, typically the second-best beast or equivalent. The mortuary is based on a simple principle: every peasant is a thief. The fine is given to the Church to make good the share of the tithe that it is simply assumed all peasants artfully withheld in life. By paying mortuary, they are forgiven the sin. Many priests will also claim that the laity gifts customarily given to the Church on death are compulsory due to tradition, though local lords may object because they believe serfs cannot in fact leave wills.

Lords also have the right to collect tallage, though they exercise it sparingly. Tallage is essentially this: the lord names an amount of money he needs, and the serfs are required to bring it to him proportional on the amount of land they rent. The tallage can be as high as the lord likes, up to and including everything his serfs own. Free men do not owe tallage. Few lords abuse the right of tallage - it causes serfs to flee elsewhere, often stealing as they go. It's mostly used in times of crisis or when a lord's lifestyle is threatened. On some manors, the serfs have convinced their lords to commute tallage to a set fee paid annually - it's less money, but less ill will, and less uncertainty.

Next time: The Peasantry


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Lords of Men

Okay, types of peasant. There are several kinds. Starting from the bottom, we have unemployed and day workers . They're about 20% of the population or so, outside planting and harvesting seasons. They wander around looking for work or, rarely, stay in one place and look for work. They tend to be incredibly poor. Notably, in France, any person who stays on a lord's land for over a year is automatically serf of the lord, but because a lord is not tehcnically permitted to allow his serfs to starve, many lords force these poor vagrants to move on early so they have no claim to charity. One common compromise is allowing the vagrants to live on Church land, where they are not technically on the lord's lands. They often turn to crime, which is one of the reasons the modern word 'villain' has such negative connotations.

Then you have your famuli , the household staff. This includes agricultural laborers who work directly for the lord as well as those who herd the lord's sheep or pigs and those who handle the dairy. It also includes cooks and janitors. The famuli are lodged and fed by the lord, but not luxuriously. They tend to sleep where they work, eat simply and drink nothing but water outside special occasions. They also usually cannot afford marriage. Many famuli have rights to small gifts - shepherds get to keep the odd lamb, dairymaids get to take home cheese - and may eventually save up enough money to marry, but they don't always make as much as, say, a villein does. Some priests or rich peasants also keep similarly employed servants, but a famulus is under the care of the lord's bailiff and thus higher status than such people. In areas where the villeins are comparatively rich and the lords comparatively stingy, famuli have lower social class than villeins, while the opposite is true in areas with more generous lords. Generally speaking, though, a landed villein can afford a family, while a famulus cannot.

The villein or serf is an agricultural worker whose labor is owned by the lord in exchange for use of land. Serfs are not free, cannot choose who to work for, where to live or what work to do. Serfdom is inherited by children of serfs. They aren't, however, slaves - they cannot legally be murdered or maimed on a whim, though they can be beaten freely. They owe the lord rent, week works and boon works. Rent is usually one penny per acre per year, but can be much higher. A week work is essentially work owed to the lord for a number of days per week from sunrise to noon. Many serfs work four to five of these "days" but in some areas work far less and pay higher rents to make up for it, particularly in lands that make money off sheep, not grain. On some manors, a villein may pay a yearly fee to be excused from week works for the year. Boon works are added days of work in theory done for love of the lord. In practice, they are done because the lord feeds you on days you do boon works. Technically, villeins own nothing - they do not own their labor, so do not own the fruits of it. Still, in practicer, most are able to keep some of what they make, and may eventually earn enough to buy off some of the worse taxes and fees. Their status rises with the size of the land they rent; the exception is tradesmen. Those practice a craft often rent small plots but make much more money than others on similar plots because of their skill - for example, millers or blacksmiths. The most unusual such villein is the German ministerale, who is in fact a knight that pays for their keep with military service. In the Norman sphere of influence, it is considered wrong to knight someone without freeing them.

The least desireable yet most lucrative position a villein can hold is the reeve , the overseer of the daily work. The reeve ensures that each villein does the required work or is reported to the bailiff. The reeve is appointed annually, usually on Michaelmas. In most areas, they must be villeins, and most courts take service as a reeve as proof that someone is not a free peasant. The reeve is usually elected by the villeins in the manor court, but the lord can veto it. And you cen be voted into the job without being there. The reason most people don't want to be reeve is threefold. First, the reeve is financially responsible for any failure it was his job to prevent and can be fined unless he can find someone else to fine for it. Second, as the lord's enforcer, no one likes the reeve - they're hated for the laziness they prevent and the work they force people to do. Last, being reeve takes time away from a villein's work of his own fields. In many manors, the elected reeve can pay a fee to force a reelection in which they are not eligible. In others, the peasants can pay a sizable fee to just not have a reeve for the year.

Why be a reeve? Well, usually there's some land set aside for the reeve to use. They are usually forgiven part or all of their rent, are paid a wage about double that of a day laborer for the entire year, and are excused from many services to give them extra time. They also tend to be corrupt as hell; most villeins hold that all reeves are corrupt. Lords do, too, and will usually annually audit the books to be sure the reeve isn't stealing too much from them. It's not easy - reeves have many chances to take bribes for unprovable returns, like the right to go home early or the easiest work assignment.

Half-free are those peasants who are free men and women but have accepted a villein rent and therefore owe villein service. The half-free are sometimes wealthy enough to hire someone to do the work in their stead. They are still free of non-agricultural taxes and services, much like a free peasant.

Free peasants are those who do not owe service. It's rarely absolute, and varies by custom - in many places, free men must still serve on juries, in the levy or as supervisors during the harvest. Many also owe the Church a small fee, the church-scot, each year. These rights and fees can even vary between free peasants on the same manor. A free peasant can in theory leave at any time by just not paying rent, but that tends mean losing lots of income, too. The children of free parents are free, and marriage of a serf to a free person makes the serf free as long as the marriage lasts, though they revert to serfdom on their spouse's death or separation. The children of such a union are usually free. There is a fine for freeing a serf in this way, of course, and a higher fee can be paid to ensure the spouse does not revert to serfdom. Free peasants are perhaps ten percent of the population on most manors, though in some, all peasants are free - generally royal manors. They are much more common on secular manors than eccelastical ones.

The main reason for this is that many lords will, as an act of charity when an heir is born or when they are dying, free many of their serfs. Church lords almost never do this, as they do not technically own the serfs; the Church does. And they can't give away Church goods. Occasionally, though, Church serfs are permitted to buy their freedom. Any many towns will allow any serf who joins a guild for a year and a day to become free this way; it's written into their charters.

Anyway, the Church frowns on peasants who get ideas above their stations. They assume every peasant pays inadequate tithe. See, everyone owes one tenth of all they earn to the Church. (Ignoring theories that limit this to plant and animal goods.) Every person cheats a little, perhaps by accident - it's the gross earning, before any deductions, and most peasants don't report it that way. Of course, some people are exempt from the tithe - usually beggars who only earn enough to support themselves. It is also considered sinful to misreport your earnings and taxes to your lord, a common practice done by giving the lord the worst of your goods in tax, or by mass refusal to pay tax when a lord is in tight straits. It is further sinful to refuse to give extra to your lord when your lord needs it to maintain their lifestyle. Beyond that, it is sinful to work on holy days - it is your duty to rest. Except...holy days take up about a fourth of the year in total, and so no lord actually respects this. Any peasant who takes a holy day off must make up the work on their own time. And it is further sinful to only take mass and miss church business, or to meet after church for drinking and dancing. Both are, however, quite common.

It is sinful to lie in court disputes on behalf of your lord, but is tempting for financial reasons - that's easy money. It is sinful to steal from your neighbors. The most common thefts are firewood and stock - both easy because all sheep look alike once shorn and because all wood looks alike, period, and the evidence is burned. It is further sinful to change priests - a common practice, as some unscrupulous priests do not take a complete tithe, causing peasants to shop around, and some priests act sinfully, causing peasants to deduct fronm their tithes in judgment. The Church condemns this - it is the right of the Church, not the peasants, to judge a sinful priest, even if they are truly heretics.

It is sinful to practice abstinence or contraception as a serf, though quite common once a few children have been had, because it limits the size of the family and thus a lord's earnings, depriving him of wealth. It is sinful to work in old age - it's avarice, and society expects the old to hand their lands to their children instead. What 'old' is varies by custom and area, as is what is provided for the old. And, naturally, since fleeing the manor as a villein is theft, it is sinful. Some parts of the Church disagree, but most hold that this is sin and wrong, because physical poverty encourages spiritual growth (and because it would otherwise force ecclestiacal lords to pay more to their laborers). Oh, and not working to your hardest is sin, because scripture says that a peasant should be happy and filled with desire to serve. And of course refusing to aid pilgrims or the poor for your own financial wellbeing is sin.

My favorite story seed in the game.

So yeah, being a peasant, especially a villein or a rural freeman, kind of sucks . The rest of the book is mass combat and siege rules, which while good are not that interesting to cover. So...

The End!

Choose: Choices are: the True Lineage Houses of Hermes and their secrets (Houses of Hermes: True Lineages), Mystery Cults (The Mysteries, Revised Edition), the Mystery Cult Houses (Houses of Hermes: Mystery Cults), more depth on Covenants (Covenants), the Societates Houses (Houses of Hermes: Societates), academic life (Art and Academe), the Church (The Church) or Germany (Guardians of the Forests: The Rhine Tribunal).


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: The Mysteries Revised

Let's start by defining terms, as we usually do. A Mystery is a secret, and also refers to the cults that teach these secrets. These secrets, for our purposes, are strange and new forms of magic which are adapted to the Hermetic system but are not widely known or practiced by Hermetic magi. They are taught only to those initiated into mystery cults. Things like the Bjornaer Heartbeast are MYsteries, not well understood by Hermetic theory despite integration into it. Many of these things are vestiges of older traditions that were never fully incorporated into the Hermetic framework. Others are new ideas, such as Hermetic Alchemy, which developed from recent work. They are exceptions to Hermetic theory, and they are the basis of the Mysteries.

The four Mystery Houses, Bjornaer, Criamon, Merinita and Verditius, are sometimes known as the Exoteric Mysteries. Every apprentice can tell you they exist, and even a little about what they believe. They are similar to the secretive groups that we will speak of here, but are more well-known. Houses are not the only associations of magi, and some gather in secret to share knowledge. These are the Mystery Cults, the Esoteric Mysteries, and they're who we're going to speak of. Each Mystery Cult has its own unique view of the world, and they don't all agree. In truth, while each may claim ancient forebears, they have little connection to the ancient cults they draw on. After all, all of them know that magic has changed since antiquity. They teach that the ancients were more potent and wiser...though no one can actually prove that magic has been getting weaker. Some Mystery Cults even challenge the idea. They are not religions, and their truths are not mutually exclusive. Many are even fully compatible with monotheism. The Church often would not approve of their rites, which draw on pagan knowledge, but they don't have to be pagan cults.

The first law of any Mystery Cult is this: secrecy is power. The Esoteric Mysteries do not discuss what they know. They keep their numbers unknown and their ways uncertain, especially to outsiders, claiming to power far in excess, often, than they actually have. It makes people fear them, and it keeps them safe from their foes. The unknown is hard to target. Some groups are more secret than others, though - the Mystic Fraternity of Samos openly advertises its existence to gain recruits, while others may hide that they even exist. A mystery cult is more than a special interest group with obscure magic - they are a spiritual and mystical exploration that changes you in ways you may not even understand. The understandings of the mystery cults go beyond language. And even those whose existence is generally known closely guard their power, so only initiates may learn and understand their magic. Thus, while many have observed and studied the Pythagoreans of the Samos cult, none have ever replicated their effects. Attempting to do so is always uncertain and difficult, though it surely is possible, with enough work.

Joining mystery cults is hard. The first step is probably trying to learn about them and thus alerting them to your existence. Blatant or indiscreet inquiries are not appreciated, but the subtle and ambiguous may well receive invitation. Of course, it should be clear there are dangers - learning too much will often result in the great ultimatum of Flambeau: Adjungite nobis an perete! Join us or die! Another way in is through a parens. If your parens (that is, the magus who trained you) is in a Mystery Cult, they may well initiate you...though almost never while you are still an apprentice. It's not unheard of for the introductions to start then, but a magus almost always has a few years under their belts before they learn any true secrets. Some mystery cults also invite people that seem to have the proper mindset and something they want - brilliant minds, great enchantments, whatever. Their approaches are always subtle and guarded, of course, and take the form of strange mystical tests and challenges.

Once a candidate is proved worthy, a formal offer is finally made, though it may still be shrouded in secrecy. If the candidate accepts, they prepare for Initiation. Initiation always involves rituals and often ordeals in strange and sacred places, to symbolically and magically open the initiate to the cult's ways. The experience is unique for each cult, of course. The initiator, known as the Mystagogue, will often give a choice: continue and learn the Mystery or go back to life and have the memory destroyed forever. Those who fail or go back are never chosen again, but will be watched to ensure their curiosity does not cause danger. If the test is passed, the Initiate is given a new, secret name, and must begin studying the secrets of the cult, to learn what is needed to be opened to the Mysteries.

Of course, power always has a price. There are three distinct ways to pay for the Mysteries: The Initiation Ordeal, the Initiation Quest or the Initiation Sacrifice. An Ordeal is a terrible process - ritual branding or scarification, being made to walk through fire without magical aid, being pinned to a tree by a spear for nine days straight. Such rites permanently and magically scar the initiate. The wounds heal, but the body or mind are marked forever, generally by some new Flaw dictated by the nature of the Ordeal. Such Flaws can never be overcome or removed by Hermetic magic. The Ordeal is a terrible price, but it has its benefits. Undergoing the Ordeal, unlike Sacrifices or Quests, gives a further bonus to all later initiations in the cult.

The Initiation Quest is one of the more common requirements. It usually entails a long journey, great danger and a series of challenges - journeying up a sacred mountain and capturing a dragon egg, say, or infiltratin a covenant and stealing a specific item, or defeating a Tremere archmagus at certamen. One well-known quest of the Philosophers of Rome requires the seduction, without aid of magic, of a prince's mistress, a Church cardinal and a faerie lord, all in a single season. Such Quests are always reflective of the nature of a cult, and depending on the Mystery, more than one Quest may be required. Companions and friends can help in these quests, but the initiate must lead them and be the one most challenged, and may well lie about why they're doing it to avoid revealing the secrets of the mystery. All Quests take at least a full season, and if they somehow end early, the rest of the season must be spent meditating on the lessons, with no other study done. Some quests take longer, or even multiple tries.

The Initiation Sacrifice is the least taxing requirement. It can be Sacrifice of time in service to the cult via teaching, writing books or inventing spells for them, or it may be Sacrifice of mundane wealth, magical books or even potent magical items...or, in some cases, apprentices or familiars. The initiation will determine the exact Sacrifice needed, and is usually done in such a way that no matter how rich or potent you are, it is a real loss.

In addition to any time spent on Ordeals, Quests or Sacrifices, an initiation itself always takes a full season, with preparations, meditation, study and ceremonies. No other study may be done in that season. Mystery cults are often organized in ranks based on degress of initiation into the Mysteries. Moving on past the mechanics of it...understand that membership in a cult holds responsibilities and duties. The Children of Hermes pay dues of vis and recruitment, while the Neo-Mercurians require aid in searching for lost shrines in Egypt or mapping stone circles in Scotland. You are expected to give time and resources to the cult's interests, not just for initiations but for general membership.

Next time: Mysteries that have lost their Mystery.

Mystery Magic

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: The Mysteries Revised

Some magic used to be Mysteries or is of special value to the mystery cults, but is now relatively open knowledge to the Order as a whole, if unusual. The Art of Memory was a mnemonic device once limited only to mystery cults. However, it has even spread to some mundane scholars now, though its use remains uncommon at best. It involves the creation of memory palaces, allowing the user to memorize perfectly complex ideas or texts. Essentially, the memory is imagined as a floor plan - a square villa with a central courtyard and entrance (usually). Rooms lead off from this courtyard, and each contains up to five loci, where distinct chunks of information are kept for later access. The more skill you have with the Art, the more rooms exist. Memories stored within the memory palace do not ever fade, save when deliberately forgotten. Each is represented by a symbolic object to remind the user what the memory is. Mentem magic allows interaction with the memory palace - the creation and enhancement of loci. Without magic, a memory locus can, at its most impressive, contain 100 pages of written text, an entire day's lecture or debate or a description of an entire manor house in exacting detail.

Spell Binding is the secret of containing spirits, using them to empower and sustain spells. This is used on elementals and airy spirits, or very rarely ghosts. The container for the spirit is a physical item, which if broken will end the spell. The container is then linked to a spell, causing the container and spell to be Arcane Connections to each other. Once a spell is bound but before the spirit is trapped, a magus may command a spirit to enter the container, where it will be trapped and forced to sustain the spell for as long as it is trapped. These spirits must be disembodied spirits, naturally. When trapped, it can use its powers for no purpose other than to sustain the spell or resist other magic. IT cannot leave the container, but may well perceive the world around it and be able to converse. Some can use the Arcane Connection to perceive the world around the spell. When the container is broken, the spells end. When the spells end, the spirit is freed. If the spirit is weakened by the sustaining of power such that it is no longer able to support the spell, the same thing happens. The spirit can also be magically compelled to leave the prison, achieving the same result. If the spell being sustained would require the caster's concentration, it likewise requires the spirit's, and so if the spirit is distracted it is freed.

Performance Magic is the art of disguising magic as a mundane task. Such task must be either clearly verbal or physical, yet also not merely understaning a language, or part of any supernatural, academic or arcane skill. Examples include storytelling (for verbal), hunting (for physical) or music or acting (for both). This knowledge essentially allows the magus to replace the normal words and gestures of the spell with those of the task - though a hunter would still need to speak the spell, and a storyteller perform the gestures. In addition, magi who know Performance Magic may make a spell that lasts as long as a performance they do does.

Planetary Magic was developed to integrate astrology into Hermetic theory. Essentially, it allows an enchanted device to be made according to astrological influences of an appropriate planet. Doing this allows for the improvement of the enchanted devices at the cost of only working during astrologically significant times (and thus being vulnerable to distraction and interruption). This only improves enchanted devices, and nothing else, but is a wonderful introduction to the more complex astrological magic practiced by certain mystery cults.

Potent Magic is similar to a Magical Focus - it is a narrow field of magic in which you excel. However, you may learn multiple fields of Potent Magic, unlike Magical Foci. Potent Magic also allows the creation of Potent Spells, spells which are improved even further than the bonus naturally provided by Potent Magic in the appropriate field by integrating into the spell itself the use of a specific item for casting, such as a wand containing jade. Potent spells can be very powerful...but also require you to carry around a lot of items to ensure you can cast them. Fortunately, they are not exclusive - a wand containing jade and other materials would apply to all spells requiring wands and any of those materials. Further, large items such as a spade can be used in miniature or toy form, so long as they have the right shape.

Vulgar Alchemy is said to derive from hedge alchemy, the brewing of potions and charms. Essentially, it allows a magus to experiment with new shapes and materials to discover new ways to empower enchantments, which can afterwards be used by any magus. It takes a full season of experimentation, and cannot be used on more powerful enchanted devices, which require specific designs to be followed, but once the materials are found, their bonuses can be used on more potent devices. Essentially, the work involves using randomly selected materials in the enchantment process to see what might possibly have helped. By further experimenting with the same materials, the nature and power of these materials can be expanded and discovered, until they are consistent enough to be proven, at which point the magus may write a book on the subject to teach others how to use the material properly.

The Neo-Mercurian cult has allowed certain skills to be taught to outsiders, to enhance its reputation. One of these is Withstand Casting , which reduces the pain and fatigue of casting especially powerful spells, though it cannot truly eliminate them. However, the power can be studied and learned many times, each time reducing fatigue loss further. Quite handy, that.

Next time: Hermetic Alchemy


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: The Mysteries Revised

Alchemy is an extremely new science to Europe as a whole, and for Hermetic alchemy the grand goal is spiritual perfection rather than gold. It also cares about the transmutation of vis. The principles of alchemy and its secrets were first adapted to Hermetic usage by Jahm of Alexandria, a magus of Ex Miscellanea. The basics of Vulgar Alchemy and even Hermetic Alchemy are not Mysteries, quite. Hermetic Alchemy allows a magus to extract more vis from auras, or to extract less but in forms other than Vim vis. The method to do this involves crafting an object to serve as the vis' physical form. Additional Vim vis or vis of different Forms can be gained this way.

The Mysteries draw on this knowledge, often. Philosophic Alchemy builds on Hermetic alchemy, essentially allowing the alchemical object to perform the transmutations on its own, producing vis with a minimum of oversight, or perhaps opening the object to enchantment on its own. This comes in two forms - a lesser one which takes a full year, and a greater which requires only one seaosn. You must still attend daily to the extraction, but it takes very little actual time.

The Lesser Elixir is part of the constant work by alchemists to discover the path to immortality. It essentially incorporates additional ingredients into the longevity ritual to improve its power, allowing the magus to live a very long time indeed. However, the Lesser Elixir can only be produced for the self, and not for anyone else. Each season of study allows the magus to deduce a new helpful ingredient, and each ingredient goes a little way to empowering the elixir. It is especially common for alchemists to use Vulgar Alchemy to discover new, potentially helpful materials.

The ultimate goal is the Great Elixir , which transforms the alchemist into an immortal being of magic at the cost of their humanity. This requires knowledge of the Lesser Elixir. Essentially, the magus first creates an enchantable potion, to which is added the Lesser Elixir, than enchants it with unique magics that have no purpose beyond this ritual. Then, the elixir is drunk. If it works, the magus is immediately transformed. If it fails, the magus knows immediately and must try again with a new version of the Great Elixir rituals. An alchemical immortal can be killed, but does not age, will not die of lesser wounds and is never Warped. The transformation is complete and cannot be dispelled or reversed. The newly immortal magus may attempt to improve their magical power by reproducing the Great Elixir in more potent varieties, attempting to grant themselves more magical Might.

These mysteries are largely the domain of the Order of the Green Cockerel , which was born out of the theories of Jahm of Alexandria. Alchemy received little attention by the Order until 1144, however, and the publishing of De Compositione Alchemiae by Roger of Chester. Until that time, the Order of the Green Cockerel had just been a minor mystery cult working towards the Great Work. Now, they were catapulted to fashion and popularity, as more and more magi wish to learn the new science. The existing cult coped well and has earned some repute. Its existence is basically an open secret in the Order, and most members make very little effort to hide their allegiance. They work to advance alchemy and integrate it into Hermetic theory as best they can. When they deal with unGifted alchemists, they always use disguise and try to dissociate themselves with the Order, using cryptic hints to guide development.

There is one secret the Order of the Green Cockerel keeps from the Order at large, though: they are in frequent and friendly correspondence with Islamic wizards. This goes beyond even the trading of magical secrets - rumor has it that some of the Green Cockerel has been interfering with the Crusaders . Many of the Green Cockerel visit the Levant, North Africa and Granada often, and the language of Arabic is frequently taught to its members. Some of their best texts can only be found in Arabic. All of their texts are cloaked in symbolism to hide the nature of their Mysteries. Once every seven years, they hold a Grand Convocation in Alexandria. In theory, all initiates attend, but lab work often keeps people away. Here, though, new insights and devices are shared, as well as new breakthroughs in material usage, and there is a competition for greatest breakthrough in the last seven years, known as the Fermentation Cycle.

The extent of the Green Cockerel is a matter of some conjecture, but alchemy has surely flourished throughout the world (except in Russia, Scotland and Ireland). The number of members is unknown, but it's probably one of the larger mystery cults due to the popularity of alchemy. It's clear that the Great Work has only been achieved very recently, and perhaps only once, ever The single initiate who may have completed the Work is never seen by members of the Green Cockerel and is known as the Secret Master, though accounts vary wildly as to his or her gender. The seven degrees of the Order of the Green Cockerel reflect the seven traditional stages of an alchemic process, and each is associated with a planet, a color and a metalm, and is named for an alchemic symbol. The Green Cockerel do love their symbolism.

The first degree, the Toads , represents calcination and is tied to Saturn, the color black and lead. The unrefined probationer is exposed to the heat of the Initiation, learning of the invisible sun and the influence of the planets. Toads are regarded with awe by mundane alchemists, but they are the lowest of the Cockerels, still largely lab assistants and as yet unversed in the mysteries. They typically are sent on Quests to retrieve rare ingredients or alchemical literature, and they are initiated into Planetary Magic.

The second degree, the White Swans , represents dissolution and is tied to Jupiter, grayish-white and tin. They are asked to make sacrifices, giving up worldly concerns in the pursuit of the Great Work. To prove their knowledge, they must add new knowledge to the corpus of the understanding of the Green Cockerels by creating at least seven new materials for use in magic before the next initiation can begin, in addition to all usual requirements. It is admired to use exotic and hard-to-get ingredients found on quests, and to assist in this, they are initiated into Vulgar Alchemy.

The third degree, the Green Kings , represents seperation and is tied to Mars, iron and green. (Red may be traditionally the color of Mars, but green is its complement, and the initiate is symbolically seperating out all greenness from the red.) The Green Kings (a term used even for women) remove themselves from all contact with other Green Cockerels until ready for the next initiation, and will not attend Convocation until then. The initiate is expected to purge themselves of material dross and find their true potential. They are initiated into the secrets of being unaging, eternally youthful if not eternally young, before the exile begins. They focus on eliminating unwholesome and negative personality traits in this period.

The fourth degree, the Peacocks , represents the process of conjunction and is tied to Venus, copper and the rainbow. The purged and purified initiate is welcomed back to the Green Cockerel, expected now to serve as active members of the cult. As a result, they are taught some of the secrets of the Great Work, being initiated into the secret of Hermetic Alchemy.

The fifth degree, the Unicorns , represents fermentation and is tied to Mercury, the metal mercury and purest white. They are the ambassadors and emissaries of the cult, watching over the mundane alchemists as guides and helpers via veiled hints and cryptic allusions. They begin the Great Work in earnest, learning the secret of the Lesser Elixir.

The sixth degree, the Pelicans , represents distillation and is tied to the Moon, silver and the color red. Now, they learn the true secret of distillation via the initiation into Philosophic Alchemy, taking on the role of Mystagogue and earthly representative of the Order of the Green Cockerel to lesser cultists. They are the intermediary between the the true spiritual master of the Great Work and the alchemical brethren, both mundane and Hermetic.

The seventh degree, the Phoenix , represents coagulation and is tied to the Sun, the metal gold and the color gold. An initiate of this level would be taught the secret of the Great Elixir directly by the Secret Master, then rise like a phoenix, transmuting themselves from base gold to immortality. This is the true secret of alchemy, of which mundane alchemy is but the slightest distorted reflection. Unfortunately, there is only one known Phoenix: the Secret Master.

Next time: Hermetic Astrology

Astrology/Celestial Magic

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: The Mysteries Revised

Astrology is an extremely ancient practice, famously practiced by the Chaldeans, Babylonians and Romans. In Rome, it was very popular due to claims of scientific precision, and it soon became vital to many magical practices and the lives of many people. This encouraged a fatalist view, the belief that a man's destiny was written in the stars and that no action could confound this fate. Philosophies of courage and resignation before fate flourished. The early Church fathers, however, attacked astrology on three principles. Firstly, it bore traces of pagan superstition and worship of the stars. Secondly, it denied the fundamental Christian principle of free will - if the stars control all actions, people are not responsible for their good or evil deeds and so the hope of salvation is meaningless. Third, it exposed the astrologers to evil spirits. Saint Augustine's City of God makes a brutal attack on astrology, decrying the lack of accountability in an astrological world, and the blasphemy of blaming evil on God via the stars. However, most Christan philosophers still accept the idea of astrology, claiming that learning astrology helps to defeat the influence of the stars, which can be overcome by act of will. Many astrologers simply do not care about theological objections and ignore them utterly.

Prior to the 1100s, scientific astrology was fairly rare in Europe, though popular astrology based on the moon was known. Scientific astrology is based on charts drawn up to examine the detailed influence of the planets, and is what is used for magic and court astrology, who began to gain influence at the time. Astronomy, of course, is taught at universities as part of the Artes Liberales, which can include astrology. Several Arabic works were translated in the 1100s, too, such as Abu Ma'shar's Greater Introduction to Astrology or Ptolemy's Tetrabiblos . It was also considered that the influences of the heavens could be artificially drawn down by use of periapts, amulets inscribed with the names and sigils of the stars and planets. A very small number of writers claim this is natural magic, the best known of which is the text called Picatrix , translated from Arabic into Spanish and Latin. Astrology as a whole is quite reputable in Europe now, and while occasionally a churchman will denounce it, it is generally seen as acceptable and tolerated, even mainstream.

Hermetic Astrology deals primarily with the influence of the heavens as manifest on Earth and how to work that into magic. Hermetic magic is largely able to ignore astrological influence due to Bonisagus' theories, but often mystery cults use astrology for divinatory or revelatory purposes, or to empower spells. The basic principle of all this is derived from Planetary Magic.

Periapts is the secret of constructing a periapt. While originally a small amulet containing a one-shot spell, Hermetic theory has allowed them to become any form of Hermetic charged device. Essentially, the creation of Periapts involves the formulation of a special Horoscope with which the magus infers the correct aspects of the heavens to create amulets with greater efficiency than normal, granting the device more charges. The creation of a Periapt Horoscope must be done at the start of the season, on the day of the equinox or solstice, but it only takes a single hour. (It also only applies to that season.)

Beyond this simple skill is Celestial Magic , which utilizes knowledge of the heavens to determine the most effective periods for labwork and instills astrological influence into that work to improve its effects. This includes all the powers of Planetary Magic, but also expands them, allowing the Lab Horoscopes of Planetary magic to apply to all lab activity, not just enchantment. Further, it unlocks new durations for spells, based on astrology and the rising and setting of the constellations. An Astrological Minute is identical to the standard Diameter - the time it takes for the sun to move across its own diameter. There is no difference there. An Astrological Hour, however, is the time it takes for a constellation to move from rising to centered over the horizon, or centered to fully risen. (There are twelve signs, so 24 hours in a day.) An astrological Day is the time taken for the sun to return to the same constellation it was in when the Day begin - almost exactly 24 hours. An Astrological Sign, or month, is marked by the sunrise moving through one full constellation - essentially, one calendar month. Thus, astrological magic can be made extremely precise via astrological calculations.

Further, a celestial magus may attempt to identify the favorable hour of the day for spellcastin, and in that hour the magus will receive a bonus to all spells cast. Lastly, a magus may create enchantments that are astrologically linked to a particular target or time of year. An enchantment linked to a target requires a nativity horoscope, and will be automatically restricted to only work on that target, and no one else, without making the enchantment harder. A seasonal enchantment is attuned to the astrological cycle, either one sign or a group of signs associated with an element. While that sign is ascendant, the enchanted item will be more powerful - though with elemental groups, the opposed element's astrological signs will weaken the item.

It should be noted that determining astrological time is very important for astrology, and can be done by any magus using Intellego Vim. Most astrologers will want to create an enchanted armillary sphere to help with their work. An armillary sphere is essentially a mechanical device that indicates time via the movement of stars and planets, allowing you to tell the astrological conditions in any place at a set time. The enchantments on such a device are generally designed to keep it accurate to the place and time it is in (though still able to be modified to check other areas). The purpose is simple: using an armillary sphere to obtain exact information makes all the astrological calculations needed to astrological magic significantly easier.

The primary scholars of astrology and astronomy in the Order are the Magoi of the Star . They refute the idea of the stars overriding free will; they are Christians, after all, believing in the principle of free will and finding it compatible with the influence of the stars and planets - they influence, but do not determine. A man born under Mars may well be a great warrior, but he can still ignore that call and become a farmer instead. These theorists say that the Limit of Time is in place by Divine will, for only God can have true knowledge of the future. The stars dictate only general patterns and forces that act on men, but do not force decisions. The Magoi rigorously refute the concept of astrological determinism and the heresy of fatalism. For did not God make humanity with the divine gift of free will, and did not that same God set the stars in the sky? To assert that astrology and free will are incompatible is clearly nonsense.

The Magoi are heavily influenced by the work of the early Christian scholar Origen, and his tomb at Tyre is a site of great importance to them - though even more important, they say, are the relics of the three Persian magi in Cologne. The Magoi of the Star hold that despite the fact that the influence of the stars is not determinant, it is still strongly influential. Human weakness often results from the baleful influence of the stars. Only by understanding those influences and acting with full knowledge of their impact can one truly exercise free will and reason, completely free from the planetary dictates. Therefore, they study astrology that they might use its secrets to counteract the negative influences of the stars and free themselves of their very object of study.

The Magoi claim descent from the magi of the Bible who brought Jesus the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, having followed a star. The Magoi are devout Christians, and are highly reverent of these three wise men, Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar, whose bodies lie in the Shrine of Kings at Cologne Cathedral, having been brought there from Milan by Frederick I. (They were brought to Milan from the Holy Land on a pilgrimage of Empress Helena.) The secrets of these Three Magi, they say, were astrological. The Magoi are awaiting the Second Coming, paying great attention toe the Books of Daniel and Revelations. However, they are not holy magi and, indeed, their views are highly unorthodox and would be viewed with suspicion by most of the Church as incompatible with the works of Saint Augustine. The modern Magoi are the foremost astrologers and experts on astrological magic in the Order. The group is very loosely organized, but each member is expected at least once to make pilgrimage to Cologne Cathedral on Christmas DAy, December 25th. They also celebrate their own birthdays with great pomp and ceremony, and both occasions are used for lavish gift-giving to other Magoi. They recently have become very concerned with possible prophecies of an Antichrist, and they are fervently seeking out information as to the truth and meaning behind these portents. Their divination and astrology are handy for understanding the present, but cannot see the future, and even the wisest diviner must ask the right questions. The Magoi are taught directly, teacher to pupil, and have little structure outside that relationship. When a master decides a pupil is ready, they are intiated into the various degrees and eventually sent out to be a master themselves. The cult is rumored to have headquarters in Bethlehem, Babylon and Cologne, great repositories of astrological lore, but the truth of these rumors is closely guarded.

There are seven degrees of initiation. The Degree of Saturn is first, and in cult rites they wear black gowns with star and moon symbols emblazoned. They require a strong knowledge of the Artes Liberales, to properly study astronomical charts. They are initiated into Planetary MAgic and its uses. The second Degree of Jupiter teachings Potent Magic specializing in the magus's birth house, as the initiate learns how to use astrological influence to greater effect. Their robes are emblazoned with astrological symbols and are a deep blue. The Degree of Mars is third, wearing red. They are taught the use of Medicine to study the four humours, and are initiated into the secrets of Periapts. Further, the Degree of Mars are required to actively serve the cult by watching for signs of the Infernal and actively opposing the work of diabolists and infernalists.

The fourth Degree of Venus wear a copper circlet and emerald robe. Their duty is gather information for the cult's interests, and all members of the Degree of Venus must complete the Cologne pilgrimage for Christmas Day if they have not already done so. They are initiated into the power of Celestial Magic. The fifth Degree of Mercury requires the initiate to begin teaching and training others on behalf of the cult. They travel more than other degrees - to Bethlehem, Cologne and Babylon, seeking out astrological secrets and meeting other astrologers, both Magoi and other traditions. They are taught a Major Magical Focus related to their Potent house, unless they already have a Magical Focus in which case they are taught Potent Magic in either their birth planet or their birth sign. They wear orange or amber robes.

The sixth degree, the Wise Ones , are the leading members of the cult, learning the true secrets and full activities of the group. They wear a silver robe bearing the sign of the new moon, and are taught divination and augury. (Which we'll talk about next time.) The greatest of all, the seventh degree, are the Hierophants , who lead the Magoi of the Star and are said to know and teach each other many virtues of astrological magic and potent magic. There are only three Hierophants, and their identities are kept a mystery from all but each other. Only when one dies or passes into Final Twilight does a new opening become available.

Also, there's an appendix on astrological significance ot the signs and planets and houses for use with magic.

Next time: Divination and Augury


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: The Mysteries Revised

Augury and divination are, perhaps, one of the most practiced forms of magic in history. Astrology, of course, is one of the most respected forms in the 13th century, but noble and royal courts have, like...well, all of history, been breeding grounds for other forms of it. There's augurs, astrologers, chiromancers, dream interpreters and crystal-gazers. Being a court diviner is forbidden to Hermetics, of course. Divination and augury are, instead, the role largely of hedge magicians. Numerology is growing, the casting of dice and, of course, dream interpretation. (On the other hand, Cicero mocks those who feel that works.)

Hermetic Divintion and Augury is the power to receive answers to questions by magic. It is inherently interpretative in nature, and it, like all Hermetic magic, is subject to the Limit of Time. It is possible to ask questions about the future, but the information received will be based entirely on present data. For example, 'Is the Quaesitor Remus intending to visit the covenant?' The question addresses the future, but the data is based entirely on Remus's present intentions. If he changes his mind later in the day, the divination won't know or care. Since many oracles prefer not to addresses the limitations of their power, they tend to couch their answers in deliberately vague and cryptic words. Others are very direct: Remus is not currently planning to.

Still, the Limit of Time is vital to the defense of augury against critics, especially Church critics. One of the biggest objections against diviners, you see, is that their action actually causes the events they foretell. Their foreknowledge, you see, is believed by the superstitious to cause events, and so it is feared that demons can mislead diviners and thus bring about catastrophe. Hermetic Divination is carefully designed to avoid both the lures of the Infernal and the abrogation of free will that other auguries may or may not entail.

Hermetic divination provides results roughly equivalent to Intellego magic. It is more flexible than Formulaic magic, but weaker. It is usually more powerful than Spontaneous magic, but only within the Technique of Intellego. Divination covers all Forms in a single power, but it is hard to improve, while a magus can specialize in a Form or two. A magus using auguries and divinations generally focuses on that over any Intellego magic in general, and will likely develop enchanted tools to help with divination. Every diviner uses divination via a specific method, each of which is best at looking up different things. (Dream interpretation, numerology and astrology have the broadest bonuses, but are also more complex.) Learning more methods will require more initiations but does not actually improve divinatory skill. Astrology, Numerology and Dream Interpretation require Planetary Magic, Hermetic Numerology and Hermetic Dream Interpretation, respectively, as well as Hermetic Divination. Oh, and divination can only answer questions - it cannot grant senses nor allow you to speak with things that cannot speak naturally. It also cannot simulate the effects of ritual magic.

Hermetic Dream Interpretation allows specialized divination, though in a different way than standard divination and augury. It's a subset, basically. It translates the symbology of dreams and you can use it for anything...but it requires you to ritually prepare yourself before going to sleep. You must sleep for a naturaly period, and in most cases it won't work if you wake up before several hours pass. You may also interpret others' dreams by discussing it with them for various periods of time depending on the depth of investigation you want to do. This works as per standard divination.

However, dream interpretation can also be used for symbolic interpretation of dreams This is not divinatory in any way. Rather, it is a symbolic, and often ambiguous interpretation of the dream in order to get an idea of the dreamer's mental state, and perhaps the reasons for the dream. It's not easy, but it may well hint at causes the dreamer has not even considered. Further, a dream interpreter can touch someone as they go to sleep, talking to them in order to shape what they dream about. This is a supernatural power, and such a shaped dream can be interpreted for divination as normal. This means you can use this to focus what you do divination on , since otherwise you are at the whim of your dreams.

Now, on to spirit magic! As we all know, summoning and binding spirits is one of the most ancient practices of magic. Necromancy is a term that has evolved from meaning 'speaking to the dead' to the evocation of spirits and those rituals that can call up demons. Hermetic magi prefer the term 'spirit magic.' Belief in magic spirits and ghosts as well as the rites to banish or control them are important parts of all medieval magical traditions. Recently, the Archbishop of Paris has condemned all "books, rolls, or booklets containing necromancy or experiments of sorcery, invocations of demons, or conjurations hazardous for souls." Of course, necromancy to cause actual physical harm is very rare, but it can be used to cause severe discomfort fairly easily - a spirit is very good at, say, preventing someone from sleeping.

Necromancy and spirit summoning is roundly denounced by the Church, but it remains ubiquitous. The Church really isn't very harsh in punishing it - during the reign of Pontifex Alexander III, a priest who called up a demon was only suspended for two years. Spirit summoners, though, are not trusted by either the Church or Order, especially as dealing with demons is explicitly forbidden by the Order. Those who do spirit magic must always be careful not to cross that boundary. As a result, Hermetic spirit magic often seems strangely impersonal. That's because those who would deal with named spirits and powerful Daimons use Hermetic Theurgy instead. More on that later.

Hermetic Empowerment allows an enchanted device to be powered by draining a spirit bound into it, thus enabling the device to create effects that require vis, such as Ritual magic. This requires Spell Binding as a prerequisite, and builds on the theory of that power. By using Hermetic Empowerment, an enchanter may still not bind those effects which are Ritual due to complexity or use of non-Hermetic rites. Further, the spell must not require any special actions to cast, such as the marching of the boundaries required by the Aegis of the Hearth. However, it can be used to bind Ritual spells due to duration or target size, or to bind Ritual spells that create objects permanently. As all enchanters know, those spells which would normally require Ritual casting due simply to exceeding a spell level of 50 do not require Ritual casting if bound into an enchanted device to begin with.

Now, the way you go about this is to enchant the device as normal. This results in a device that can't do anything. What you do then is bind a spirit into it. Rather than spend vis on the power, the Ritual is powered by draining the spirit's Might. Yes, this does permanently reduce the spirit. Yes, any aware spirit is going to be in intense pain and will hate you. However, unless the device gets broken, there just isn't anything it can do about it. Once the spirit becomes too weak to maintain the effect, you have to replace it, and so a device can have many spirits bound within it. Should the device be broken or the binding disenchanted, any spirits bound to it are released. They tend to be enraged, both by their imprisonment and their torment. The binding is done in the same way as per any Spirit Binding, but using a special enchantment designed to permanently trap spirits within, rather than the less complex bindings used for Spirit Binding.

Spirit Familiar allows a magus to bind a ghost or spirit rather than an animal as a familiar. You can only ever have the one Familiar, though - an animal or spirit. Until it dies, you aren't getting another one. Such spirits are known also as genius umbrae or parhedros. Binding one is similar to an animal - you have to find and befriend it, convincing it to be your ally. (This is hardest with the intelligent ones, which can't be as easily charmed as animal-level spirits.) Those who possess both Faerie Magic and Spirit Familiar can bind faeries, but there's easier ways to do that in House Merinita. A demon is theoretically usable but would Infernally taint you and provide less power than a demonic pact. Some magi have claimed to have bound angels to themselves, but the truth of that is unknown. The benefits are similar to an animal familiar, but also enhance greater sorts of things - rather than reducing the penalties to dealing with people and other beings, they also empower understanding of magic and physical endurance. The spirit also retains any and all powers it had.

Inscription on the Soul allows a magus to enchant their own spirit and/or body as a Talisman. A Talisman, as a note, is basically a unique item that a magus can only make one of at a time, and it is the most potent enchanted item that they can create. Verditius Mysteries related to Talismans cannot be used when enchanting the body and spirit. The enchantments last as long as the magus lives, and many magi have developed ways to integrate objects or elements into their bodies to improve its use for enchantment. The spirit is what is enchanted with any effects save those that explicitly rely on the physical body (or any substances blended with the body). This usually doesn't matter...except in one case.

That'd be the Living Ghost , a terrible and mysterious ritual that contains the secret of binding a willing magus' spirit to a physical area, the Haunt, before they die, and then ritually murdering them so they become a free-willed ghost. Suicide is a mortal sin, so the rite has been suppressed and horrifies most magi. Unlike most ghosts, the Living Ghost retains full consciousness, abilities and mind, though there may be some slight changes in personality. Of course, protection under the Code of Hermes ends with death, but the issue of Living Ghosts has never been tested at Tribunal. The Living Ghost-to-be must research a few spells first, and you only ever get one chance to do the transformation, since it involves ritual suicide. But if it works, you become an immortal ghost, unaging and powerful, yet more flexible than most spirits.

A Living Ghost has full awareness and memory, can learn and change (with some difficulty) and cannot be easily laid to rest. However, it is tied to the Haunt. The only real loss a Living Ghost suffers other than that is that it has no solidity to real things. The magus does retain a link to their Talisman and may improve it still. If the Talisman is their spirit, any enchantments on it still continue. Otherwise, the Talisman must be carefully hidden within the Haunt to protect it. Any enchantments on the body-as-Talisman, however, are broken immediately and warp the magus just before death. Entering Twilight on the moment of death ruins the entire ritual, so it's best not to enchant your body to prevent that from happening, at least if you plan to become a Living Ghost. If you have a spirit familiar, it stays with you freely. Otherwise, your familiar must choose: abandon its tie to you and lose you, or join you in death and become a ghostly familiar. The Haunt is all that ties you to the world, though - so if whatever you made your Haunt ceases to exist, so do you. Thus, it's safest not to go with a Circle or a Room or even a Structure, all of which are more easily destroyed than a Boundary - though a Boundary will require more power in the ritual. As a ghost, you may naturally cast any spell you knew in life as a ghostly power by expending Might, and you may permanently burn your Might to use as vis. You will likely want to learn spells or prepare devices to help you interact with the physical world, though, so you can continue your work. You may also restore lost Might spent as vis by re-casting the spells that turned you into a ghost if you can remake your Talisman a bit.

Next time: Hermetic Theurgy


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: The Mysteries Revised

Theurgy, also known as name magic, deals with the names of spirits and how to invoke them for power. Such practices are actively pagan, and were the Church to learn of them, they would be persecuted. As a result, theurgists are some of the most secretive Mystery Cults. The belief in the power of names is very ancient indeed, as is the belief that knowing a true name gives you power over the named. The idea that synthemata, secret signs and symbols, could be used to conjure beings or gain safe passage beyond them was very important to Gnostic thought, and its influence on magic is still felt. Gnostic summoning has popped up in the 8th century and 9th century, often drawing on Greek and Egyptian magical texts from the 2nd to 5th century. The greatest grimoire, the Key of Solomon, may date back to the first century AD. These practices still persist even now that the Graeco-Roman cults have been forgotten. Hermetic understanding of name magic draws on early Gnostic cults, and it differs from Hermetic spirit magic in that it deals with larger, more known spirits and bargains, rather than the binding of weaker spirits.

Names of Power draw on the names of angels, gods, planets, faerie lords and others, even if the magus cannot truly summon or bind them. Essentially, invoking the names allows the magus to use them to empower lab activities. Most great powers have many names, each applying to different aspects of magic, and a name may well have several powers which a magus can draw on by developing multiple Names of Power spells. The names must be spoken aloud and firmly so, to draw the power's attention. Quiet or silent casting just doesn't work. You may also work a Name of Power into a theurgical invocation spell, empowering it directly. You just have to know the Name when making the invocation spell and it has to be relevant. Names of Power can be combined with Invocation Magic to allow the Names to empower spells directly, rather than just labwork. You just cast the Names of Power spells as long as they're relevant to the spell you're boosting. A magus who knows how to make a consummate talisman (more on that later) can also integrate Names of Power into that to boost later spells.

Invocation Magic is, as mentioned above, the power to use Names of Power to boost spells. You can't learn it without knowing Names of Power. Very handy.

Hermetic Theurgy is the power to invent spells that form spirit pacts. Each such Invoke spell made relates to a specific, named spirit. Indeed, two such spells can be identical in all respects save the name of the spirit they summon. The two primary forms of this are Spell Spirits and Form Spirits. These do magic for you. You summon the spirit, you ask it to cast a spell, and it does. This takes extra time, but it allows you to get the spirit to vary the spell a little, as if you had Flexible Formulaic Magic. Also the spirit does the casting, so no dice get involved and it can't botch. There are a great many minor spirits, so the labwork of inventing the spell is enough to learn the name of an appropriate one. Of course, a spirit can only be in one place at a time, so rival theurgists can have problems, but this is rare.

A spell spirit is a spirit of a single, specific formulaic spell. You summon it, and it casts that one, specific spell for you. The spirit is invisible and attends you until either you ask it to cast, or the spell summoning it ends. Only the first summoning is difficult - that's the one where you form the pact. Once you manage that, it will come and willingly serve you on all later summonings without issue. A form spirit is similar, but rather than a specific spell, it corresponds to a Hermetic Form. The spirit has power to cast any spell of that Form in a manner similar to spontaneous magic, and will cast a spell once when summoned, then leave. This makes them more versatile than spell spirits, but also weaker than a spell spirit of equivalent Might.

There is one more thing theurgy grants you: the power to invoke Daimonic pacts. This allows you to summon an Aspect of a Daimon, a spirit that exists outside the world as a sort of pagan deity. Many Daimons have unusual powers which they may be convinced to use on your behalf. The Aspect is not the whole of the Daimon, just a part, which may fade away and be discarded at will. The only way to bind a Daimon itself is to find the core spirit in the realm where it lives. Daimonic Aspects are summoned via ritual magic spells, and technically speaking even a non-theurgist can cast such a spell. A non-theurgist just can't invent their own versions of the spell and must be taught the spell by someone else or a lab text. Further, such a magus will only be able to summon the Aspect if they are immensely powerful or have a full-on Wizard's Communion helping, while a theurgist can spend time gathering the power needed.

A Daimonic Aspect is an independent entity in most ways, save that it can be made or destroyed by the Daimon in an instant. Each Aspect tracks health, Might and powers seperately, and non suffer fatigue. They also do not heal naturally - the Daimon just eventually dispels them. They remain as long as they possess Might and remain conscious, so long as the Daimon desires them to stay. They are normally disembodied but can produce bodies at will. Only one Aspect can be summoned to a single place at a time, but multiple Aspects of the same Daimon can be in different places. They will not willingly enter a place where another Aspect of the same Daimon has been within 24 hours. Further, any changes made to an Aspect are impermanent, lasting only until it is dismissed. The most that can be done is to seal a pact to have an Aspect attend a magus. In a Daimon's place of power, there are no Aspects, only the true Daimon, but mortals rarely venture into these places.

Theurgic Spirit Familiar is similar in nearly every way to the standard Spirit Familiar, save that it can bind an Aspect of a Daimon as a Familiar. This doesn't prevent other aspects from being summoned elsewhere, though a Daimon may not mention that. While only an Aspect attends the magus, the bond is with the Daimon itself. You are going to want to research an appropriate Daimon and pick one that will be likely to respond well to you. (Forcing anything on the Daimon, perhaps with Hermetic Synthemata, will not make a good impression.) The Daimon may accept if it likes you, and the Aspect may then be bound as per a normal spirit familiar.

Ascendancy into the Hall of Heroes is what many theurges seek: becoming an immortal Daimon. Many pagan or Gnostic Mystery Cults favor it as a path to immortality. It is very hard, as it requires cooperative effort with others. First, you must devise a ritual by which you ascend to the Hall of Heroes, the place where Daimons are said to live, and then you need a second ritual taught to your celebrants, who will cast that on you to help you ascend and take on your true Daimonic form. This is going to take a lot of time and help. Once you manage to accrue enough power from the spells, though, you become a pure and perfected immortal divorced from the world. A new star forms for you, announcing your ascendance. Your Talisman, if you have one, becomes a part of you, a source of power to invoke as you did in life. Your body is left behind as an empty shell, with any power within it gone. It does serve as an Arcane Connection, though. Must cultists will thus utilize part of it as a relic when trying to summon you.

A Daimonic magus is immune to age and Warping, but also learns slowly, due to their immortal nature. Further, they cannot learn in the same ways that most immortals do, for they are cut off from the material world. Rather, a Daimon accrues power as cultists summon it. An Aspect of a Daimonic magus may cast spells as normal, though expending Might rather than Fatigue when it needs to do so. When an Aspect hits 0 Might, it fades away but causes no harm to the Daimon. The power accumulated by summoning can be expended to improve the Daimonic magus, either fixing normal learning to last and not vanish, or to accept power from a tutelary spirit - which is more expensive, but easier and more common than standard studying for most Daimons.

Hermetic Synthemata draws on special names, symbols and signs associated with magical beings. Any being with Might possess synthemata, and a magus who knows the secret of synthemata can use them to overcome its magic resistance. This even works on Daimons, allowing much easier summoning of them...but it also tends to really, really annoy them. A synthemata is integrated into a spell, unique to each being, just as the synthemata are unique to each being. The victim is aware the spell is cast, so that in itself is a bargaining tool. The hard part is learning the synthemata.

See, you do it by starting to research the spell...but if you don't know how powerful the target is, you're going to need to guess . And many targets posses the power of Name Hiding, the ability to conceal their snythemata and make your research take longer. But you don't know if they have it, so again, you have to guess. And while you know when you've done enough research to probably finish the spell without Name Hiding, you have to guess when to stop working to empower it to get past that. Of course, some demons have negative Name Hiding, so that they are easier to research, for they desire to be summoned and put to evil purposes. Anyway, once you manage to complete the spell such that it is usable against your target, it then renders other spells significantly more able to pierce the victim's Magic Resistance. Because of Name Hiding, lab texts (known as grimoires) are very valuable for synthemata. Most creatures do not know their own synthemata, by luck or choice, but may well know those of any spirits they command. Knowing ahead of time what the synthemata is makes Name Hiding irrelevant, and thus greatly increases the safety and speed of developing a synthemata spell.

Synthemata Magia was the non-Hermetic method from which Hermetic Synthemata was devised. It remains a very useful ability to learn, despite this. See, the Hermetic method is very slow but very powerful. Synthemata Magia is the opposite - much weaker but able to detect synthemata at a glance. Essentially, you use it in the presence of a being with Might, attempting to intuit their synthemata. If you succeed, you learn the synthemata intuitively, though you cannot teach it to anyone. You may then cast the synthemata as a spontaneous spell or develop a standard spell for it, without all the hard research of Hermetic Synthemata. The main thing here is that it's a single check that may well fail, and if you fail you will need to use a long and exacting ritual fast over an entire season in order to learn the synthemata via this spiritual research. The main problem with this method? Synthemata learned via Synthemata Magia do not increase Penetration - they just increase casting scores. So the spells are easier to cast, but do not actually have much in the way of boosted Penetration unless you already have an Arcane Connection to your target.

Next time: Great Talismans and Arithmetic Magic


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: The Mysteries Revised

The Talisman is a very personal item, typically made from as many components as a magus can manage so as to get the highest possible amount of different component bonuses. However, for most magi, that can't change later in life - once made, it cannot be modified physically, though it can be re-enchanted and have its magic altered. The Great Talisman is a Mystery that allows the magus to more easily attune to the nature of their Talisman, tying it closer to their soul. So close, in fact, that mere usage of the Talisman in regular life will allow the magus to open an attunement bonus without any work over a season. This is not cumulative with actively working to do so in a season, though, even if you reopen or reinvest your talisman with magic. Further, when you reopen the talisman for enchantment, you may also craft in one or more new components, though the total is still limited by your knowledge of Magic Theory. In any season you do that, you may choose to attune to one of the old or new component bonuses.

The Consummate Talisman empowers a Talisman to do something no other enchanted item can do. Normally, Muto Vim spells within an item can only affect the other powers of that item. For someone with Consummate Talisman, that is not true. For those of who know Names of Power, it allows them to be worked into an item and invoked if the Name is spoken during a spell. Further, any other Muto Vim effect may be worked into the item and made to apply to spells the magus casts, rather than just spells bound into the Talisman. There is a downside, though. This invests so much of a magus into the Talisman that they become worse at casting magic when not touching it.

On to Arithmetic Magic! Ever since Pythagoras, the power of numbers has fascinated mankind. Some Mystery Cults have discovered a Hermetic application of Pythagorean theories, of Euclid's geometry and even ways to weave magic into architecture. All of these draw on the principles of numerology, which seems to derive originally from the Jewish gematria. However, gentile and especially Hermetic numerology also draw heavily on the work of mundane architects, who were able to build great cathedrals using math alone. Numbers fascinate many magi, and Numerology can be used for divination and codes.

Hermetic Numerology teaches magi of the correspondence between numbers and all things, even the seemingly unconnected. These are governed by your understanding of arithmetic. Understanding numerology allows you to learn how to use divination with it, but it also unlocks several other abilities. First and most importantly: it lets you create a Numerologist's Book. Every numerologist has a focus text - the Bible or Bonisagus' De Theoria Magica are common, as are other great Authorities. To aid in magic, that book often becomes enchanted and attuned. This can be either a lesser book (where only the pages are enchanted) or a greater book (where the book is treated as a compound whole including the covers and bindings). The latter is more expensive, but provides a greater bonus. Use of the Numerologist's Book provides a bonus to any divinatory numerology, numerology-based labwork or, if consulted before casting a Rote, to Rote casting. The bonus is provided by understanding numbers - understanding, in fact, that opening the book at random and inspecting numerical relationships between words on the page provides understanding of the world around you. Many numerologists prefer to make their Book into their Talisman, not least for the ability to re-enchant it as a Greater Book later. The Book may also hold other enchantments, seperate from the numerology bonuses.

So, what are Rotes? A Rote is a minor magical effect, an arithmetic formula that provides magical power about equivalent to the greater powers of Spontaneous Magic. Like the lesser powers of Spontaneous Magic, however, it is not tiring. And further, no dice roll is needed to cast a Rote. But for such a low-power effect, why do it? Because Rotes are a purely mental exercise. Once learned, they can automatically be cast wordlessly and without gestures, merely by thinking of the mathematical formula that represents the effect. Because Rotes are such low-level magics, a magus will often know several as a result of a single season devoted to studying them.

Hermetic Geometry draws on the knowledge of the ancient philosopher-wizard Euclid. The five postulates it treats as of most importance are these: A straight line may be drawn from any point to any other point, so all points are linked. A straight line may be produced to any length, and so all lines are unbounded links between points. Given any point as a center, a circle of any radius may be described, and so there is sympathy between points and circles. Any two right angles are equal, and being equal, they are connected sympathetically. Given a line and a point not on that line, there is exactly one line through that given point that does not intersect the first line, and thus the second line is special and connected to the first. These postulates provide sympathy via geometry.

A Hermetic geometer gets a bonus to any magic involving tracing a circle or line. They get a further bonus to any spell involving a regular geometric figure, and may always use ceremonial casting with such spells, so long as they have room to draw and trace symbols and inscribe geometric shapes in accordance with numbers. They have access to new spell factors, as well: the ability to target anyone on a line connected to a point the magus stands on, provided they can calculate the line and can somehow sense the target (perhaps via hearing). They may target remote circles by creating a circle that is sympathetically connected to the first circle, and rings in the same manner. The trick: they have to be geometrically perfect, which is very hard to draw freehand (but very easy with aid of a stick and some string.) Geometric magic is also especially good at reshaping materials into or out of geometric perfection, and several magi have developed spells that will force areas into geometric perfection long enough to receive the bonuses for geometric magic on later spells.

Hermetic Architecture is concerned with the construction of large-scale enchantments on entire rooms or buildings. It also deals in creating permanent paths and gates. One problem for many enchanters is the need to fit an item to be enchanted into the lab. Large or immovable items are a problem without making a new lab around them. Sometimes that's not even possible. However, by studying sacred architecture, you learn to place enchantment in a larger context, using patterns to unite seperate devices into a greater enchanted whole. First, you determine the whole to be enchanted. Then you identify some other substance of convenient size that shares the magical nature of the structure to be enchanted. You need several of these to account for the size of the whole. Then you work out a geometric calculation for where to place these symbolic objects within the whole to produce a resonant pattern.

Once you've succesfully devised and implemented the pattern, you open and enchant the component devices with the effects desired for the overall structure. Such effects can assume their target is the structure as a whole, the components or both, but each effect must specify which target is intended. You may also ignore the limit on Boundary targets provided the Boundary involved is the structure being enchanted. Once this is done, you place the components in the pattern and perform a ritual unique to Hermetic Architecture, binding the pattern into place. Each component must have a niche, a special place for it alone, If any is removed from its niche, the enchantment is broken until it is returned. However, so long as both niche and component remain intact, they can be returned and no harm done. A Muto requisite in the binding ritual will actually physically bond the components to their niches and prevent them being removed without breakage.

Hermetic Architecture may also be utilized to manipulate and strengthen magical regiones and auras via enchantments, increasing the aura within the bounds of the enchanted structure and increasing the size of magical regiones or sealing off gateways in as desired. This makes it a lot easier to control a regio and what goes on within it. Very handy indeed.

Next time: Dream Magic

Dream Magic

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: The Mysteries Revised

The 13th century is home to a furious academic debate within the Church regarding the nature of dreams. Dream interpretation is still popular, but attempts to enter and control dreams are far less common. In Russia, however, there are traditions of peasants visiting in dreams and of trying to control your dreams. Hermetic understanding is that dreams result from the effect of the humours on the mind and body, intimately tied to the Form of Mentem. Dreams, unlike mundane existence, are not limited by time or physical boundaries - like the magical realms, they are transcendent. This has led some heretics to claim that all of creation is a dream of God's. The close association between magical realms and dreams is clearly apparent in miraculous visions, dreams of the dead, dreams sent by God and the dream-realms of Faerie. Dreams are, perhaps, as close as a normal person can come to understanding the Gift and experiencing magic. The process of controlling your dreams, called lucid dreaming, is an ancient one, practiced in Rome and mentioned as late as the fourth century. The Eastern Church holds that people are not responsible for their dreams but should feel appropriate shame for sinful dreams. Jewish rabbis hold instead that sinful acts in dreams may actually be portents, and are of no moral consequence. The Western Church is familiar with Gnostic dream magic, but the Gnostics seem to have had rather limited success.

Dream Magic is a Hermetic Mystery drawing on Baltic folk traditions, invented by Raisa of Novgorod in the tenth century. It allows you to send your spirit into dreams, where all feels real but is in fact illusion, running on dream logic and dream time. You may enter your own dreams or those of others. While in a dream, your body lies in a trance state, as if sleeping, and physical disturbance can draw you back. Otherwise, you return when the dreamer wakes up, though it is possible to leave the dream via a portal into other parts of the mind. While in a dream, you have an Arcane Connection to your body and may awaken yourself at will, or draw on real-world vis in your possession just as you would in the real world. You may also use dream vis if you find it, but such vis lacks any real substance outside dreams. A spiritual traveler of this sort has full magical ability. However, any magical equipment other than a Talisman is not present. The body is left without magical power or conscious resistance, but remains protected by its natural magic resistance. Not the Parma, though, which goes with the spirit unless you extend it over your body as a seperate entity.

Dream magi also gain access to new spell factors: they can make spells last as long as a dream does, ending when the dream ends or the sleeper awakens. The dream can be natural or sustained by magic. They can target dreams, for example to create a portal into dreams, too. This magic makes it very easy for them to control dreams. And, naturally, they can use these spells to bring others into dreams as spirits, much as they bring themselves. One must be careful, though - travel in a dream is not geographical but associative. You find places by entering similar places, not by following any map. Time is not linear and fixed, either - dreams can skip time or travel to different times within the dream. Most physical laws can be broken. Further, you cannot sleep in dreams - attempting to do so just causes time to pass around you in an instant to when you wake up. Permanent changes appear possible, but are in fact not, and revert once you leave.

Dream travelers do not get tired in dreams, and do not require food or drink. They feel the need to breathe but do not actually require it. Wounds may be taken, and while the shock and pain are real, the wounds fade on waking. (The shock is often enough to force waking.) However, spiritual travelers are vulnerable to the effects of Mentem and Vim magic which target spirits. Those that reduce Might instead temporarily reduce Imaginem score until the traveler awakens (which happens if reduced below 0 Imaginem.) Spiritual travelers age or do not age in dreams based on dream time and whether they choose to acknowledge it. It's all appearance anyway. The body ages as normal while the spirit is out in dreams. If your body dies before you return, your spirit dies once you do return, but not until then.

The Greater Dream Grimoire requires Dream Magic. It teaches how to physically enter dreams, and how to extract real things from dreams into the waking world, giving them substance. Few ever learn this dangerous power. While physically inside a dream, all threats are real and permanent. On the other hand, it's much easier to retrieve items and you have more solidity than most dream-things. Physical travelers are subject to normal time and geography rather than that of draems, for they are in fact awake, and the dream world is solid and real to them. Dream time does not leap forward around them, and they must travel in normal ways, and also lack the power to take advantage of dream logic to miraculously have things they want on them. Dream navigation works the same way, though - associative, not geographic. They may apply dream logic to the dreams around them, but never themselves or to physical things brought into dream. They may resist the arbitrary changes of dream, and even lucid dreamers cannot touch them directly with dream control.

When they return to the real world, the time elapsed is (usually) that of the real elapsed time, not that of dreams, though sometimes it is longer or shorter. If the dreamer wakes, all physical travelers are expelled, reappearing wherever they entered the dream from. Real-world objects vanish, reappearing again in dream when the sleeper next dreams. Physical travelers do suffer fatigue and wounds in dream as normal, and require food and water. They also need sleep. Dream food, as a note, feels nourishing but provides no true long-term nourishment. They also age normally. They may do magic as normal, and may use any dream-vis they find as if it was real. However, any spells powered by dream vis disappear once they leave dream. They also possess access to Creo Imaginem spells which can give dream objects enough substance to be removed from dream physically and continue to exist, so long as the spell powers them (or, as a Ritual spell, imbues them with real vis).


Dream magic is particularly common in colder, northern climes. Raisa of Ex Miscellanea in the Novgorod Tribunal invented dream magic as Hermetics know it. She was massively talented with Imaginem, despite her inability to concentrate much on the real world. She was an insular woman, and her works on Mentem and Imaginem magic were mostly incomprehensible to others, so most believed her introverted to the point of insanity. However, she was able to defeat a faerie dragon alone, by bringing forth its weakness from her lab: the tears of a rhinoceros, which she claimed to have found in dreams. Her tradition began that day: the Volshebnii Mechtateli, derived from the Russian words for Magical Dreamers. Due to Raisa's poor Latin and incomprehensible writing style, the name became interpreted as that of a cult, rather than a description.

Most modern Volshebnii Mechtateli are eremites, the wizards who live apart from Covenants. Many others, though, are highly sociable and merely lead a secret life in dreams, holding meetings, rites and rituals far from the real world. Due to geographic seperation, they meet largely in dream, and their sacred place, the Vermilion Temple of Wistful Sighs, has no real-world version. Initiates may bring guests into the outer chambers, but never further within. The modern cult deals in whimsy and terror. Their power is an invasion, and in the early 11th century, many suffered Wizard's March for it when it became clear they were using it to shape the minds and goals of magi. They became known as dream witches, hated and feared, and the texts that Durenmar possesses on dream magic are now forbidden to most. Learning the magic isn't illegal, but it is discouraged.

The Vermilion Temple persists beyond all dreams, and some say it is a dream in the mind of an Eternal Sleeper, whose identity is known only to the lords and ladies of the cult. Perhaps clues as to the sleeper's identity lie in the inner sanctum, and rumor has it that the dreamer may be a sleeping king under a hill, a dreaming old one or even Tytalus the Founder, forever ensorcelled. The truth is doubtless strange in its own right.

The Volshebnii Mechtateli did not start as a cult - not until several of those who studied dream magic began to abuse it mercilessly, knowing no boundary save imagination and no morality beyond desire. The reaction was, as noted, swift and brutal - six Dream Mages of the Order were killed in Wizard's March, with three of those who Marched dying of sleep deprivation or madness. If terror can strike a magus even in dream, where can they run? The cult refers to this time as the Sharp Awakening, and when it ended, every dream mage known to the public was dead. A few lived on in private, unwilling to show their power, and eventually, the dream witches became little more than a bogey, a bad memory. And yet, they lived on in dreams. One maga of Loch Leglean Tribunal, Agnes of Tremere, saw the terrible potential of dreams and the misery her forebears had inflicted. She decided to refound the group, but as a Mystery open only to those with beautiful dreams and pure hopes. She took the motto 'In Dreams Begin Responsibilities,' envisioning a Volshebnii Mechtateli that served the Order. Dreams change swiftly, though, and idealists make poor rule followers.

The cult cult has no real hierarchy or structure. It has only two degrees: the Lords and Ladies of the Passions, who know Dream Magic, and the Monarchs of the Veiled Court, who practice the Greater Dream Grimoire and are the only ones allowed in the innermost chambers of the Vermilion Temple, the Sanctuary of Lost Dreams. Initiation is offered in dream to those who are extremely good at Mentem and Imaginem magic, and typically only to young magi, before the weight of years crushes their dreams. Initiates never know the true names or faces of any but the one who initiated them. While it's not part of any formal degree, an Initiate may well be able to persuade that elder to teach them Potent Magic or Magical Focus on dreams, as well as affinity or aptitude for Mentem or Imaginem. Many are initiated in the final years of apprenticeship - and those who react with (perhaps appropriate) horror tend to be brutally killed before they can become true magi and get the rights granted by the Order.

Next time: Mercurian Magic


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica 5th Edition: The Mysteries Revised

The Order of Hermes was born from the memory of the Roman Cult of Mercury, but much of the knowledge of the Cult was lost forever, save for a few works that were incorporated into the design of rituals such as the Aegis of the Hearth and Wizard's Communion, and of course the famous technique known as Mercurian Magic. It is fairly widely known in the Order, and whole not all who are interested in the history of the Cult have it, it is the root of the Mercurian tradition and the part generally accepted as authentic. Beyond that, there is only what can be reconstructed by analysis of fragmentary records and magic. House Mercere's Gifted and many of House Flambeau are famous for practicing what they believe to be the inheritance of Mercurian magic in the Cult of Mercury that was founded by Mercere's apprentice Priamitus, while House Guernicus also has an interest in Mercurian magic. But we care about another group, a Mystery tradition known as the Neo-Mercurians who blend claims of authentic Mercurian reconstructed rites with a dedication to apply these insights to Hermetic magic.

The Neo-Mercurians seek to redevelop what they believe to be the ancient Cult of Mercury, the foundation of Hermetic magic. They are far from unified, and the Neo-Mercurian cult varies greatly between Tribunals. In Rome, Provencal, the Levant and Thebes, they recruit from the open Cult of Mercury, while in other Tribunals, the Cult is castigated as a pale shadow of the true tradition, which they have no patience for. They tend to specialize in Vim magic, and have developed a number of Mysteries related to what they believe the ancient Mercurian Rites were. They can be divided into those who honestly worship the ancient gods, and those who see them only as potent spirits to bargain with via praise and who see altars as merely a power to be tapped.

They claim that their magic is fully authentic, if reconstructed, and insist that all other Mercurian groups are debased forms of the true power and spirit of Mercurian magic, which only their careful reconstruction represents. In the same way, they often seek out ancient temples and lost glades that exist in hidden regiones, attempting to restore them to full splendor. Neo-Mercurians prefer to do their rites within temples of Mercury or associated deities. They claim the German Wotan, Norse Odin, Celtic Lugh, Greek Hermes and Egyptian Thoth are all just other names for Mercury. They have no system of degrees or ranks at the local level, beyond a very simple division.

First you've got the Messengers of Mercury , unGifted servants who deliver messages and gather information, as well as assisting in the discovery, excavation and restoration of temples. Senior Messengers may possess enchanted devices to help them access temples in regiones. The Congregation forms much of the rank and file of initiates, who work to recover lost temples and research ancient magic. They serve the Priests while learning the mysteries of the Neo-Mercurians. The Priests are the leaders. One Priest is responsible for each restored temple, and for organizing the rites of the annual Festival of Mercuralia (May 15), in which they sprinkle enchanted water on the hands of the Congregation, as was done in ancient times. The cult loosely organizes itself on a temple-to-temple basis, with initiation based on skill and the Priest deciding what order to initiate you in. Despite the lack of local organization, the Neo-Mercurians have temples across Europe, or so it is rumored, with excellent communication and a hierarchy of Priests serving an ancient Roman temple. Only the Priests know if this is actually true.

Neo-Mercurians favor imperial Roman dress, customs and traditions, and they are fond of using Classical Latin, resisting any more modern forms of the language. They adore classical Roman authors. All Initiates are required to possess Mercurian Magic or be initiated into it before anything else. They teach Performance Magic based on Neo-Mercurian Lore and the ceremonies of the cult. They teach