My group decided to start a new campaign just before summer, but we wanted to wait to start it until everyone's done with their vacations. Also, since I'm the Storyguide, the group really wants me to decide on a covenant, only that it should be in the Rhine Tribunal.
So, I've been looking and looking for a new and interesting option for a covenant, but it seems that my creativity is somewhat limited these days. Therefore I wanted to ask here for suggestions on an interesting Rhine covenant.
As a Storyguide, I really like my campaigns to be as historically correct as possible (just add the mythic as a layer on top of that again). So, anyone have any interesting and original ideas for a covenant in the Rhine Tribunal?
I should start by describing the group itself. I've been playing with these players for some time, or at least a couple of them. Some are new. They're six players, plus me as the Storyguide. They've already created their characters (one Bonisagus, one Flambeau, one Criamon, one Bjornaer and two Merinitae).
Now, the problem is that I really don't know what kind of covenant I want. See, most of the players are quite new to Ars Magica, and they want me to create a covenant that the new magi can move into. I like the area around the covenant to be as historically correct as possible, so I would rather see an area of the Rhine Tribunal that is quite well detailed in this time period (1220, as usual).
The players are also big fans of fantasy, so references things similar in mood and style to Harry Potter and similar stuff would be nice. So we're looking for a classical covenant with high fantasy elements. I'm considering a regio.
One idea I had was to use the Kaiserstuhl region by the Rhine, but I can't find any historical information about it. The highest point there has the nice name of Totenkopf, actually. That might be something to build on. Also, I'm looking to put in an older Magus, like an authority figure of some kind. Maybe nice old Dumbledor-like figure that can be a kind of mentor to the characters, or even the opposite, a stern and perhaps evil Tytalus magus with a creepy name like Silas Caulfeng or something like that.
Well, those are some ideas I have, but I'm open to other suggestions. The most important things are that my players would like a covenant with some good fantasy elements and a nice detailed area around it (but the mundane areas should not be too close).
One element that works really well for us in our current saga is that we have a well-define political structure. No, wait! It's not as dull as it sounds.
We have two Elder magi, with a mutual antipathy that would escalate into Wizard War if not for living in the same covenant. We then also have our player characters as the Younger Magi. Given that the two Elder Magi kindof cancel each other out, politics comes down to us.
One of the interesting things is that when we started we didn't have a Princeps or official leader. We were brought in to revitalise the covenant (a dedicated covenant in Stonehenge charged with watching over an Infernal site), but have since taken charge with our Verditius now elected Princeps.
So what does all that give you? Well, our Elder Magi both live in the tower, one at the very top and the other in the deepest parts of the foundations. Both are mysteries and neither venture outside their sanctums or the council chamber. They have untold control over magic, so far as we know, and we're not sure which is "good" and which is "bad". And given that they're the last of the Elder Magi, there are plenty of abandoned and sealed laboratories and workshops to explore, loads of strange magic around the place, and a hundred and one old traditions, each of which leads into a story (some may be leading into the same story, but we haven't joined all the dots yet).
So my advice, based on what's worked well for us, is to have two old powerful magi nominally "in charge", that the PC magi must either align themselves with or find another path. And give the covenant a history of old dead magi that have already enchanted their environment and give your players something to explore.
It's the highest mountain in the north of Germany and there are many stories told about this location, mainly about whitches meeting every year here in the Walpurgis night. It's a very lonesome area in the wild. So it suits well for Merinita and Bjornaer.
And there should be some sources around about this mystical area out there.
Some good ideas here. The Brocken is very close to Fengheld (we use the established "canon" covenants), and they wouldn't like another covenant in the Harz, I guess.
I keep getting back to the Kaiserstuhl, though. Also, more and more I'm leaning against setting it in a regio somewhere.
Some things I've been meaning to ask:
Can the opening to a regio be portable? For example, could there be an item, which acts as a key. Whereever you are, you can use it, and a doorway to the regio would appear.
How close should the geography within a regio correspond to the geography outside it? Should the terrain inside the regio be similar to the terrain outside? Most regios I read about has some sort of similarities.
Just do what you want.
The only important thing is how could the players abuse the cool idea. E.g. they move the gate where they want and they can jump from the regio in any place they want. In a cathedral, royal palace, behind castle walls. Distance is no problem e.g. to bring auxiliaries or reach the covenant stores.
The entrance may be variable, but I personally wouldn't have it "portable" as such, at least not in a "transporter/transmat" get-me-out-of-here-quick fashion. Not so much because it's open to abuse, but because it's a little too far from what a regio is for my taste.
Remember, if your magi want a "teleport bracelet" then they can always use the Leap of Homecoming paired with an arcane connection to something inside the regio. There's no reason that the AC won't work across the regio.
I'd keep it pretty similar, only more so. In a magical regio, the landscape may become more "ideal" as the regiones ascend; a tree becomes healthier, stronger, perhaps more regular. That kind of thing.
Do it as you prefer, we use a mix of "spiced up version" of the normal world, "a world totally of its own" and any variation in between as it suits at the moment.
Had a regio overlaying a city and surroundings, regio was totally different and with lots of relatively easy entries/exits that could be used as shortcuts because the entries in the normal world didnt align within the regio. Århus i think it was...
Other times the regio is like reality just with extra polish. Sometimes either whats in the regio "shines through" to the outside, or vice versa, possibly creating a landscape that is a mix of the original regio and the outside area... etc etc... Again, its a matter of preference, although i would advise against any sweeping statements of "this is how it should or must be". Its a regio, can be totally nuts or impossible to distinguish from normality.
It just so happens that I went up the Hohentwiel on Sunday, so I'll happily second this suggestion! It's about 30km west of Constance and has a great view over the lake, Alps, and Hegau. Like several of these extinct volcanoes, it's a prominent rocky outcropping which is steep on all sides (Natural Fortress Boon is a must!) and a Magic aura would not be out of place there. As noted, the area is on the border between the Rhine and Greater Alps Tribunals.