Firstly a warning. This thread is about an alternative setting for Ars Magica that is significantly different and much more high fantasy than Ars usually is. If discussing alternate settings isn't your bag, please feel free to ignore this. I'm a big fan of the Ars Paradigm (oh, i've gone and said the sacred word) but this is something else crafted for solely my entertainment, and if i'm lucky, my players too.
Ok, so, to the matter at hand.
I've come up with a fantasy world/chronicle idea that is based on the ideas of exploration and empire building.
Basically the characters start as novices/neophytes/apprentices/squires in various orders of magi/paladins/druids/priesthoods in a rather typical fantasy D&D-esque world.
This world has been under a millenia long attack by a rather unpleasant liche who has been slowly taking more land and destroying more nations as the centuries ticked by.
The characters are from a realm protected by insanely powerful magic that wards against undead/devils/etc and via the might of its armies and the strength of its various orders has managed to hold off the foe for a few hundred years.
In the last couple of years, many of the great wards around the nation have failed and the undead armies, millions strong have swept in and decimated everything. The last city, the nations capital, a shining example of massive magical might and learning is the last city to fall. The characters are all here fighting on the walls etc.
With the city doomed (despite its strength, the forces arrayed against it are too many) the heads of the various orders make desperate plans to ensure the survival of their people. The head of the mage order reveals that through study of banned dimensional magic, his order have found 3 inhabitable worlds. They haven't had time to do anything but the most cursory of scouting on these worlds but all three have abundant plant life and can support human life.
The remaining civilians of the city, along with tiny contigents of guards (the majority holding the walls in a last ditch attempt to cover the escape) split into three groups and enter three big swirly portals taking with them the last of the cities supplies and a whole bunch of raw material.
The PC's are given learning aids (books, sentient magic items, etc) and one third of the crown jewels (Crown, scepter, orb) and sent through a portal at the head of 1000 civilians.
Behind them, the heads of the magical orders sacrifice their lives to seal the portals and cut their world off from the rest of the universe to stop the evil liche-type from following the fleeing civilians. This neatly explains why there are no powerful spellcasters/etc along with the PC's
And this is where the game really begins.
The world they land on is pleasant enough, green rolling hills, tang of sea salt on the breeze from the west, mountains far to the north and a dirty great forest to the east. South is lightly wooded rolling hills and plains.
Now, the idea is for the PC's to engage in the kind of covenant building that a new spring covenant might engage in (but with a more desperate edge to start with) and then engage in exploration of their new world, finding out about the geography, floral and fauna and about the current indigenious life forms present on the planet.
This will allow me to introduce a number of classic fantasy races (and maybe a few of my own) and happily mess with my players pre-conceptions (perhaps unconciously mimic-ing their characters own misconceptions). Civilised and pleasant goblins maybe, or warlike and xenophobic Dwarves, cannibalistic halflings (hello Dark Sun) and other forms of fun. At the same time there will be ancient ruins a plenty from advanced and magically powerful civilizations from which to learn ancient magic, recover interesting artifacts, all that jazz.
Ideally, the human refugees will hopefully (under the leadership of the PC's) learn some of the history of the world, make some alliances, meet some friends, make some enemies and eventually become more secure in a tiny new nation of their own.
I want to use the ars magica system since, in my view, its much better at long term stuff, it de-emphasizes combat (there'll be combat, but i don't want a D&D hack and slashfest type game) and it has built in rules for initiations into weird forms of magic (lost magic of the ancients, etc).
Now to my musings.
I want there to be 4 different orders of person for the players to choose their main character from.
I want to make them all using the ars character generation rules but with more pre-assigned virtues/flaws. I also want to stick to the existing virtues and flaws as much as possible.
I also want a system of belief to replace vis for rituals by priests. i.e. they can make magic items/cast rituals/etc using the belief of their followers as a substitute for vis (which they can't use at all).
Druids i intend to be simply very heavily natured focused magi (maybe the bjornaer heartbeast and a form of elementalism but swap ignem/auram/aquam/terram for animal/auram/herbam/(terram or aquam).
Paladins would have their magic limited to touch and personal range, but recieve a magical focus on healing and enchantment of weapons and armour (i like the idea of paladins being the mage-smiths in this world). They would also receive the warrior and self confident virtues to represent their steadfastness and their martial focus. Top it off with a flaw to represent code of behaviour or vow.
Priests would have magic ranges of personal, touch, voice and arcane available to them, with arcane being for ritual spells only and no sight range at all. I'd also like some kind of belief system to replace their vis use. Lastly they'd have virtues/flaws that represent their faith as a reserve of strength/code of behaviour, similar to the paladins.
Magi would be most like the hermetic versions but i'd like some appropriate virtues flaws to make them more "mage-y". Ars lets you create any type of wizard whereas here i am aiming for more along the lines of a D&Dish wizard, bookish and intellectual. Not sure what virtues would suit.
Other ideas i had included sanctums. Similar to talismans and familiars, but instead of enchanting a animal or object to be a "part of you" you enchant a place. I've haven't thought much about this beyond the concept.
Some limits would be in place.
Priests can't have familiars
Paladins don't have sanctums
Druids don't have talismans
So, bits left to think about, what virtues/flaws should magi have? and what restrictions?
Any ideas for fine-tuning the other 3 orders are welcome as is any good ideas for situations and people/places the PC's may encounter on their new world. And any other thoughts in general.
Feel free to discuss the specifics, my intended players don't read this forum.