[Actual Play] Ver Novum

Here I'll present the story of my by now long-running saga Ver Novum. I'll update the thread with session reports, starting with the rather large back catalog (at the time of writing we just finished session #71) and then updating whenever a new session happens. Since there aren't any established actual play threads around to model this thread after, I'll try and stick to one thread for this saga. I'll create a growing table of contents in this opening post, linking new session reports as they're posted. Thus you should feel free to post your comments, feedback, thoughts, and whatever else in this thread as you see fit. If this format shouldn't end up working I'll ask a moderator to split the thread. For now, let's start this experiment...

Table of Contents:
#0 - Introduction
#1 - Dispatchment to Singen


I was initially inspired for this saga by picking up a figurine of Alfonse Mucha's Spring during my stay in Japan back in 2005, the same time I started getting into Ars Magica to begin with. While I started out rather sketchy on European history, the saga turned out to be rather historical while running its course, equally cause and effect of me reading up on the period. A lot of the local color is inspired by real historical events, persons, and locations. As we live only a two hours drive from the covenant site, this has given us opportunity to visit there and benefit greatly from local history. While magic is not uncommon in this saga and I'd hesitate to call it low-fantasy, it's definitely far from being high-fantasy. We mostly stick to 5th Edition RAW, with only minor house rules. The players were allowed to add up to six years of character development after the end of their apprenticeship. We initially planned on multiple storyguides, allowing me to play a character as well, but this idea eventually fell through as a.) no one was motivated enough to carve out a piece of the action, and b.) my story took on a life of its own, not leaving much room for beta-storyguides. The saga features minor crossovers to some of our other games, mostly in the form of player characters from our 4th edition game set in the 1160s showing up as NPCs. I also tried to start several other side-games, all of which fell flat so far, but which have proven to be a useful source of NPCs from other regions.


The covenant of Opus Lumen has entered final winter. During preparations for the Rhine tribunal meeting of 1214 Redcaps found the covenant abandoned and in ruin. Unfortunately, the covenant was situated in a big castle on loan from an allied noble, Gibizo of Twiel, friend to House Jerbiton. Since the castle on Mt. Hohentwiel was situated in a strong magic aura, and since the Order is intent on fixing relations with this noble, it was decided that the covenant should be founded anew if none of its magi return from twilight before the next tribunal meeting. As this came to be, Durenmar intended to create a chapter house there; a notion that was strongly vetoed by Fengheld and other local powers that want to contain the reach of Durenmar. As compromise it is now decided that the freshly gauntleted magi of the tribunal should be given the chance to create their own covenant on Hohentwiel, making them a neutral party in this conflict... and also expendable scouts, as the misfortune that befell Opus Lumen is still a mystery. During the tribunal meeting of 1221 five new tirones enter the stage...


The Founding Members:

Adamas, follower of Tytalus
An ambitious and sometimes ruthless gentle-gifted magus who loves meddling in the affairs of the mundanes. Originally apprentice to a Jerbiton magus, who discovered him at university where he studied law, he was later acquired by Omnius of Fengheld, a troupe favorite who shall be introduced adequately later on. Adamas is a generalist when it comes to forms, but specializes in Muto and Rego as techniques.

Alexios Chthonios, follower of Merinita
A strongly faerie blooded child of Byzantine nobles who was originally apprenticed by a distant relative in house Jerbiton. But his whole world collapsed with the death of his pater during the sack of Constantinople. Taken as a slave, the ship he was on shipwrecked off the coast of Thessaly. He was then apprenticed by Echidna of Achaea, a member of the Witches of Thessaly, who taught him about his faerie heritage, explaining his dreams of dark faerie rites involving his mother. Interested in learning more about faeries, he traveled to Irencillia in the Rhine Tribunal and ended up joining the house after resonating well with the ideas he found there. He is a strong Rego and Perdo Vim specialist with a magical focus in spirits.

Darius, follower of Guernicus
Apprenticed to Niobe at the covenant of Theopacis in Cologne he was a rather unremarkable apprentice. He excelled in Intellego and Mentem magics, fueling his ambition to one day become a quaesitor as behooves a magus of his house. This eagerness made him reckless, leading to a social faux-pas during a meeting with the archbishop of Trier – an ally of Theopacis – embarassing the latter and ensuring his ongoing disdain.

Rupes, follower of Bonisagus
My GM PC. A giant-blooded Terram specialist who is the filius of Claudius (my 4th edition character in our 1160s game; now founder and headmaster of Theopacis). He grew up as part of an infernal cult led by Cerberus, follower of Verditius, member of Rheinstein. Following the fall of Rheinstein, Claudius (himself a quaesitor) led the march on Cerberus, eventually hunting him down amongst his demon cult. The exact events are not public knowledge, but Claudius claimed Rupes as his apprentice under the Bonisagus privilege, sheltering the then 12-year old from further questioning. He has since displayed a strong affinity with the Parma Magica, developing a massive magic resistance for such a young magus.
[spoiler]I set up the background of this character so that our 4th edition GM (player of Adamas) could easily reference his 4th edition plot if he were to ever take up storyguide duties. The cult worshipped a demon that Claudius has been hunting for a long time. Trying to rid himself of his nemesis, he ended up binding the demon within the young Rupes, realizing his strong potential for magic resistance. As it seems unlikely now that I'll ever give up GM duties, this aspect of his background will go mostly unused.[/spoiler]

Wigand of Hechingen, follower of Bjornaer
A Bjornaer blessed with the gentle gift and the heartbeast of an eagle. As filius of a Norse magus named Olafsson (heartbeast bear) he displayed strong pagan leanings, resonating well with his weak faerie blood. He also has a strong artistic bend, displaying the gift of enchanting music. On the Hermetic side he's a generalist with a magical focus in birds of prey. (This character actually suffered from a few retcons, being played by two different players in succession. But the basic concept as presented here remained the same.)

Other Covenant Magi:

A Tremere Whose Name Has Been Lost to Time
A friend of the Wigand player was initially set to join our game, but decided to drop out after the first session. He was simply retconned out of existence.

Artemis, follower of Criamon
Walking on the Path of Strife, this young maga didn't leave her home in the Greater Alps far behind. She will join the covenant for a short while in the future. More about her then.

Gregorio Calcaterra, follower of Verditius
A dwarf-blooded mason and Rego expert who joined the covenant only recently. More about him when his time comes.

The Initial Turb:

Walter (companion character of the Darius player), a former Knight Hospitaller quickly appointed as new turb captain. He is haunted by an infernal past and, unbeknownst to him, is actually a lycanthrope.

Otto the Giant, a one-eyed powerhouse of a man wielding a warhammer. He prefers to shave his head bald to maintain an edge. Adamas seems to be quite fond of his services.

Albert the Sweet-Tempered, a jolly fellow likely to overindulge during feasts, yet always gentle and polite. His fair temper makes him a favorite tagalong of the magi during social outings.

Franz the Lazy, an archer who always finds a way to either dodge an annoying responsibility or catch a quick nap.


Mt. Hohentwiel is located in the region of Hegau in the Duchy of Swabia (nowadays southern Germany), which is practically littered with mountains of volcanic origin, making the entire region quite fertile and home to lots of vineyards. The strong magic aura on top of the Hohentwiel (magic aura with a strength of 5) extends slightly outward, spiking again on the two winehills at its foot, making for an exquisite harvest. The lord of the castle, Gibizo of Twiel, has run into financial troubles as the rather large castle (the former seat of the dukes of Swabia) is too costly for him to maintain – basically the reason why he decided to rent it out to the Order of Hermes, letting them take care of upkeep and allowing him to collect a tithe on the wine profits. He has since started construction on a smaller castle on Mt. Rosenegg nearby. Castle Hohentwiel is now basically a ruin, showing strong signs of decay. Covenant resources are thus at an absolute low, having lost most of its library and pretty much its entire stock of vis. Yet there are some vis sources registered in the name of the covenant in the ledgers of house Mercere, allowing for a regular base stock. There is a small hamlet called Twielfeld beyond the forest at the foot of the mountain, housing only a handful of peasants. The larger settlement of Singen on the other side of the local river (the Aach), which once also belonged to the lords of Twiel, has since been acquired by the burgeoning lords of Friedingen. Not far off (and actually visible from the mountaintop) is Lake Constance and the city of Constance, seat of the local bishopric, itself. This puts the covenant at the very borders of the Rhine tribunal, neighboring on the Greater Alps tribunal. The covenant of Juno's Spire, home to archmage Pietro, is just on the other side of the lake.


[spoiler]Aura (Minor x2, Site)
Bedrock (Minor, Fortifications)
Curtain Walls (Major, Fortifications)
Difficult Access (Minor, Site)
Hidden Resources (Minor x4, Resources)
Local Ally (Minor, External Relations)
Right (Minor, Resources)[/spoiler]

[spoiler]Castle (Minor, Fortifications)
Crumbling (Minor, Fortifications)
Magical Disaster (Major, Site)
Regio (Major+Minor, Site)
Regional Produce (Minor, Resources)
Tribunal Borders (Major, External Relations)[/spoiler]


The Rhine tribunal is mostly as presented in Guardians of the Forest. The two most major changes were the removal of the covenants of Triamore and Dankmar which were replaced with Theopacis and Opus Lumen respectively. Theopacis is located within the city of Cologne, and led by Claudius (my 4th edition PC), a strongly pious archmage who strifes to ally the Order with the church and thus establish a place for magi in mundance society. Other than that, I replaced and added a few magi characters of my own design, and shifted a few chapter houses around. While the guilds are present and active in our game, they have yet to play a larger role as the player characters have remained undeclared so far.

#1 - Dispatchment to Singen

The gathering of the Rhine tribunal, anno domini 1221. Four magi – Adamas ex Tytalus, Darius ex Guernicus, Rupes ex Bonisagus, and Wigand ex Bjornaer – are officially raised to the rank of tiro after having passed their gauntlets since the last tribunal, and another young magus – Alexios ex Merinita – swears fealty to the rulings of the Rhine tribunal after having passed his gauntlet in the Theban tribunal. After their introduction another magus is raised to the rank of magister – a Tremere peregrinator of small stature named Titus.

The new tirones were previously approached by their parentes about joining a newly (re)created covenant near the border to the Greater Alps tribunal. All of them accepted, glad to have a chance to stand on their own so soon. During the tribunal gathering they were presented with gifts from the established covenants, for which the gifting covenants could in turn ask a small future favor from the new covenant (this tradition has been established in our other game, and turns out to be a great way to place some hooks).

  • Durenmar presented a chest with 100 pounds of silver, enough money to last the covenant its first year. The chest was escorted by four armed men of Dürenmar (the initial turb) whose continued service they could take up if the covenant chose to pay them for it. In return the magi of the new covenant are to donate a copy of their first work to the library at Durenmar.
  • Crintera offered five potions with the effect Purification of the Festering Wound, and asked the new magi to come visit Crintera sometime in return (later strongly implying that they'd prefer to have the aspiring quaesitor visit Rügen and have a look at the conditions there).
  • Irencillia gave a rook of Vim vis, only asking that the covenant maintain good relations with the local fair folk.
  • Fengheld, obviously hard-pressed to present something, awarded the new covenant with a magic bucket that upon spoken command fills with water for Diameter duration, as well as the corresponding lab text (CrAq 13). The future favor is to be determined at a more favorable time.
  • The representative of Oculus Septentrionalis was likewise dumbstruck, promising its members would come up with something at a later date.
  • Roznov presented a collection of lab texts which contains some useful mid-level effects, including a new spell designed by one of its former members. In return they advised the magi to seek out their own path and not rely on the other covenants in their personal growth.
  • Theopacis provided a decent Parma Magica summa (L4, Q12; only usable with previous knowledge in Parma Magica), and encouraged the covenant to go on a pilgrimage on the Way of St. James, offering further compensation if at least two magi publish their travel reports in written form.
  • Waddenzee gifted the new covenant with a ruby opened for enchantment (that's twenty pawns worth of vis). In return they expect a barrel of Twiel wine every year, offering fair compensation for the Redcap arranging the means of transport.

After the public gathering adjourned for the day, the members of the new covenant gathered in a tent on the tribunal fields, getting to know each other a bit. They were soon joined by Racasus ex Guernicus, the quaesitor in charge of the necessary formalities relating to the new covenant. Thus they were presented with the conditions that came with being provided an established covenant site:

  • Investigate the whereabouts of the previous members of the covenant Opus Lumen which was hitherto situated on the Hohentwiel. Should any of them resurface, they are to be allowed to rejoin the covenant as members with equivalent rights to its new founders.
  • Castle Hohentwiel has fallen into disrepair. It needs to be restored in order to regain the goodwill of the local lord, Gibizo of Twiel, who graciously provided exclusive access to the castle to begin with.
  • The magic aura extends to two vineyards at the foot of the mountain, which the old covenant used to grow an exquisite wine. The local lord was paid a tithe from the profits, so business eventually has to start running again to maintain good relations with him.
  • The land is at peace, but should the need arise, any armed men in the castle shall enter the local lord's service for the purposes of defending his lands.
  • The magi should present a charter for the new covenant upon the next tribunal gathering.

This arrangement is obviously on the borders of the Hermetic Code, but Simeon ex Jerbiton, one of the previous covenant members, brokered the deal with the backing of his house and stated his intentions and case clearly during the appeal for the foundation of the covenant. He also made sure the covenant maintained good relations with its lord as well as avoiding unnecessary contact with his neighbors. This worked well enough for a long time... until the entire covenant simply disappeared more than seven years ago.

Asking around during the tribunal gathering, the newly gauntleted magi find out a few details about the previous members of Opus Lumen:

  • Simeon ex Jerbiton, originally from the Normandy tribunal, moved over to the Rhine tribunal after having established good relations with some local nobles and then brokering the lease of castle Hohentwiel. He seems to have been a political power house with good connections inside as well as outside of the Order.
  • Aequius ex Bonisagus, filius of the renowed archmage and quaesitor Claudius. Like his parens he was strong in Vim and otherwise a generalist. As a follower of Trianoma he traveled a lot, exploring the magical landscape.
  • Hyalus ex Flambeau, while a Perdo specialist, showed great interest in historical traces of sites of legendary fires, of which he seems to have found quite a few on Mt. Hohentwiel (a mountain of volcanic origin, a fact that probably no one is aware of in medieval times though).
  • Linus ex Bjornaer, a Herbam specialist with a great interest in the fair folk. He was the one that tended to the vineyards and helped turn the Twiel wine into a sought after commodity.
  • Umbrus ex Mercere, a Redcap who made good use of his geographically benefitial position by making connections in the Normandy and Greater Alps tribunal, rendering his refined intertribunal services quite profitable.

Other noteworthy encounters include some of the magi meeting Adamas's parens Omnius, a large and morbidly obese man with no body hair (I only later realized how much his appearance equaled that of Belphegor as described in Realms of Power: The Infernal and his depiction on its cover – I actually kinda modeled him after Earthquake from the Samurai Shodown series), who seemed oddly nimble for a man of his girth. He made ungracious comments about "the Greek", who is of rather slender build, and joked about his culture's fascination with sodomy. No stranger to earthly pleasures himself, he offered everyone willing a sip of his pipe of far-eastern herbs. (I guess what makes him a troupe favorite is that I play him with a thick Kölsch accent (area of Cologne), commonly associated with "lower class trash" in nationwide media and comedy, and making him appropriately unembarassed about anything. One of his most memorable lines (in another related game) came from off-scene after he left a tent shortly before to relieve himself: "'tis yer own fault, boy, I told ye to keep that bucket steady!" :wink:)

Later on one of the magi ran into the new magister Titus, entering friendly conversation with him. He stated he'd love to visit the covenant sometime, possibly staying for a while since he didn't plan to leave his life as peregrinator behind. He also pointed out the fact that Durenmar initially wanted to open a chapter house on the Hohentwiel, and even in the subsequent compromise has retained the right to still do so should the new covenant fail. This makes Durenmar a potential and particularly dangerous rival of the group.

Over the next few days, the new covenant eventually prepared to depart for its new home – the Hohentwiel near Singen.

Next session: #2 - Interludium: Adventus Corvi