Adventure design help: Destroyed covenant


I'm about to move my saga in a new direction, and thought I'd seek out some creativity from this esteemed list.

The characters will be exploring a recently destroyed covenant to a) figure out what happened, and b) perhaps establish a new covenant there. I'm looking for interesting details about what they'll find.

The former covenant is set about an ancient mine that dates back to the Roman times, north of Cordoba, in Andalusia. The owners of the mine have been at times Roman, Visigoth, then Muslim. There have always been some sort of magic users on the site, due to the high magical aura of the site.

The (autumn) covenant was destroyed recently due to a severe botch: All of the magi were aiding the resident bonisagus who was trying for a breakthrough. The botch set off an explosion and subsequent earthquake.

Former members of the covenant:
--A north african bjornaer hunter who collected exotic animals. He has several guardians around the covenant still that survived, as well as a few statues that will "come alive" to protect his sanctum.
--A lab rat bonisagus
--a Mercurian Mercere who is quite old and very active in politics.
--a Muslim alchemist and his apprentice (who is elsewhere during the accident)
-- a muslim Jerbiton who is very good with the locals, mundane and lords alike
-- 2-3 others.

Many of the mundanes survived.

The main thing I'm looking for are details. When the characters clear away the rubble, what do they find? What do the magi have in their former sanctums that show their personality? What interesting magical rooms, objects, or tomes might there be from previous magi, (roman or visigothic?)

I envision a roman villa above ground, with a series of carved passages beneath, and below that caves that have a few passages leading to the mine.

I envision some sacred (muslim) architecture below ground, in the main research lab of the bonisagus. Here there is also a vein of particularly magical mineral that is the main vis source.

There will be ancient side tunnels that go off into unused portions of the covenant.... what is there?

I want something a little sinister, in addition to the exotic animals . Perhaps the mine has dark fairies that have been agitated by the quake. What do they hope to accomplish? Perhaps there was a minor demon set loose from his bonds?

One thing I'm not sure how to deal with are ghosts of the magi. I don't want there to be too much "talking with the dead," because this could give away the background details. On the other hand, it might be interesting to have the dead bonisagus talk to the PC bonisagus, encouraging him to continue with his research.
Do people who do not get a christian burial automatically become ghosts? What happens to their spirits if not? I mean, these dead magi are buried down there under tons of rubble....

Thanks in advance to anyone who cares to share their ideas,

Some details on the kind of investigation being conducted would be helpful here. Were they trying to invent stockade parma or break the limit of Time?

What kind of adventures do you plan on building there? Is the ex apprentice part of your troupe or will he be an enemy?

The first thing that hits me, is that being where you are, you can have loads of fun qwith hermetic sahir and djinn around the covenant. maybe you cannot get info out of the ghosts: Maybe they were doing some PeMe breakthroughs and they just were demented/destoryed in the accident and as a side effect the mundanes forgot that there was a covenant there. Ever. That would mean that you need to go out and talk with the sahirs to get clues about the covenant and their whereabouts, as well as trying to convince a community of disoriented people ("why am here guarding this door? Who is my master? What the hell is this depleted villa in the first place?") to work for you.

And obviously you can have a group of rival magi (either hermetic or muslim) show up for some readily introduced antagonists.


Hmmmm. The mentem effects are an interesting twist....

The breakthrough is the Limit of Vis. The Sacred Architecture has a Muto focus. They're trying to turn one form of Vis into another.

... Oh, I see where this can go.... The mundanes may all be CHANGED into weird creatures, or their minds warped. Hmmm. muto magic gone awry.... What would muto effects do the rooms themselves? Gravity is flopped? liquids are solids and vice versa?

I am introducing this location to the troupe as a possible covenant location, so I don't want the place utterly destroyed. If they choose NOT to live here, then at least they might loot the place and have some lab equipment and vis to start their own covenant at a place of their choosing.

A rival faction of southern muslim magi will definitely arrive with the same intent as the hermetic magi.

Thus, the inititial adventures will be exploratory, with a certain amount of "what happened here." They'll also be accompanied by a tremere necromancer who is seeking to put any ghosts to rest, if there are any. He and a quaesitor will be "official" tribunal representatives. The quaesitor will be there to account for everything that is found, and discover if there was any wrongdoing. Secretly, the quaesitor has an agenda of his own to cover up a few things he and the Mercurian magus had cooking....

Again, The biggest thing I'm looking for are ideas for things the troupe may find. Descriptions of rooms, objects, interesting vis, etc.

Thanks again,

In my opinion, no. People who die without a Christian burial go somewhere else that is generally outside of the game, usually Purgatory. But as I see it, most of what we think of as ghosts in Ars Magica aren't really ghosts. Actual ghosts, spirits of dead people, are associated with either the Divine realm (the same sort of thing saints become) or the Infernal realm (tortured spirits that continue to walk the earth). If they're helpful and trying to show others the way to righteousness, or make amends, or things like that, I'd say they're probably divine. If they're more like poltergeists or haunting spirits, I'd imagine they're infernal.

Ghosts from the other realms are not quite the same thing. I picture magic ghosts as spiritual embodiments of a person's mind at a particular point in time. This might be why their memories are generally so mixed up, and why they have such difficulty learning or adapting to present circumstances. These spirits probably lack the soul of the original person who they represent, though of course it's difficult to be sure. Also, there can be many different versions of a magic ghost: such as one of Exemplar when he was a young man, one of Exemplar when he went into Twilight, and one of Exemplar when he died.

You don't have to make the spirits living on the site know anything about what happened, because as far as they know they might be still alive and living in their covenant the way it used to be. Maybe one ghost is a living embodiment of a former character's intellect, and so is curious and passive, while another is tied to the former magus's rage, and thus frightening and dangerous. So the lab rat ghost might talk shop with the Bonisagus character, believing him a colleague rather than a looter :wink: and another ghost might be less cooperative.

(Calebais might be worth looking at for more ideas for magical ghosts...?)

Thanks Erik. Good thoughts, all, and intriguing. I'll also take a look at Calabais, which I've owned for years but haven't read.

Serf's parma....
Neither of the PC mages are particularly adept at mentem. Is there any other way to take care of the "rage spirit" mentioned above? If I change it so that there IS no tremere necromancer, and decide to have some of the dangers be some nasty spiritual "embodiments," how can the characters defend themselves?

Can these spirits take over the living? That might be one way to create some challenging situations. Mundanes that the characters trust suddenly become possessed by raging ghosts. The characters don't want to KILL the innocent, just subdue it. Then they could REQUEST the necromancer be sent down to rid the area of spirits....

Typically, a ghost is the spirit of someone who dies with a strong emotional attachment - to their death, to something unfulfilled, to an incident, to a person. Different attachments explain different "types" of ghosts - mere haunts that are seen but never interact (attachment to "doing something", over and over), malign spirits that harm a specific person or type of person, or anyone who enters "their" area, protective spirits who watch over a loved-one, or a ghost who died with some burden (a mistake?), and is trying to right the wrong they shoulder. Some ghosts are angry, some are sad, some are covetous of a specific thing, or of "the living", and want what they can't ever have - doesn't stop them from trying. This is true in almost any culture, and the specifics (& game mechanics) can vary widely.

Magi certainly could have such strong drives - one published adventure has several mage-ghosts who all continue their lab research, unaware that they're ghosts*.
(* The actual plot is far more complicated than that, but that's enough for this purpose.)

Note that this makes "taking over the covenant", or even raiding its riches, very tricky - technically the covenant is not abandoned (not even close, actually), and any looting is theft of magical power by the Code. However, it's certainly done - I'd toss in a competing group of magi if you want some real fun, and some political complexity later as the two groups either argue over who has salvage rights, or who was guilty of looting (or both?), depending on how the Tribunal feels about it all.

You mentioned magical traps - to destroy the traps would be adequate to survive - to thrive, a way should be possible to take control of them without merely destroying them. Leave that option open, if possible - won't always be possible, but it's a nice bonus for the creative thinkers in your group.

I'll say this too - this is hardly a "subplot" - this is potentially the foundation for many, many evenings of adventure. Any SG who plans such should be careful that this does not become the saga, a deathmarch with a huge reward at a never-ending process. Measure the challenges, and create them so they can be defined as you go, so one won't have to handwave at a majority of them and move things forward in case their players start to get tired of variations on a theme and start itching to use the playground and playthings they've found.

Thanks, Cooch.

Yes, this is the foundation of the saga arc. So far, the characters have been just wandering around Iberia and Provence, exploring. Now we're ready to settle down, and I feel this is a potential location. If they take the bait, there will be some long term consequences for settling here, as they find out that they were pawns all along of greater schemes within the tribunal. But this will be balanced with newfound power, and some things that the elders weren't aware of. In the end, they'll either fight the power, or join it. Should be good fun, and provide at least a year of gaming.

If anyone has any thoughts on specific rooms, especially sancta, of the magi I've mentioned, please forward them. I'm designing the covenant, and then ruining it, over the holidays.

I'd also be interested in your thoughts on how a massive Muto Vim botch might affect the surroundings.

Thanks in advance.

Cool, you're on top of it. (I meant the above as general advice to any who needed it, and tried to frame my language at any lurkers reading the above, not at "you" per se. I guessed there might be a method behind the madness.)

One of my favorites is the magical defenses that were keyed to certain persons, now mostly all dead. Like on a back door to the covenant - was used regularly by those who had been given access, now... an unfortunate legacy. (Or attuned to certain magical aspects - like "The Gift", perhaps, either for or against?)

Simple traps - nonlethal, magical or no, but confining, are a classic. Let the magi use their Spont spells to escape. (I would actually take a look at the characters' Spont abilities, the different Arts/Magical Foci/etc, and try to design the trap's effects so they can showcase the different strengths - or weaknesses. Always nice to toss them a fish, or remind them why Flaws are called that.)

How massive is "massive"? :laughing:

(If truly huge, I'd just expand the area.)


o Could make the effect permanent, or constant.

o Could destabilize the Aura, causing fluctuations over the day or the year.

o Could create a Regio, one that comes and goes - very dangerous to get trapped in (and hard to work into a plotline without screwing a character - I made that mistake once, but it worked out.)

o Could alter any spells cast in the area, a permanent MuVi effect on all magic.

o Could alter a magical animal, or group of animals (yes, hardly original, but a classic).

o Could change an enchantment.

How about Time alteration? The Muto botch causes time to run a little faster or slower than normal. Is it a Regio? Perhaps it has become one after the accident. Or maybe things that have accumulated warping from the area generate spontaneous Muto effects (grow/shrink/change color/etceteras).

Hmmm. Could you expound on this?
Do you mean like, "all spells cast in the affected area now have an increased duration by one level." That kind of thing?

These are all great ideas. Thanks. I'll gladly take more!

By "massive" I mean that all magi are dead, and it caused an earthquake that brought down the covenant's tower, and caused some cave-ins.

Sure, or are diminished, or either one or the other randomly, or (best?) are changed unpredictably. Look at the MuVi spells and Guidelines, and also the Experimentation Extraordinary Results table (p 109) for more ideas.

As a SG, I'd never define an effect like that for the Players - and I'd rarely nail it down and paint myself in a corner. If they want to dedicate a season (or more?) and Investigate it, then maybe, sure, if they succeed. But a Botch - especially a "massive" botch, is not supposed to be a Gift, or not one that can be relied upon.

I'd have spells get changed differently and unreliably - R/D/T and Base Effect are only some of the possibilities.

I just got an idea. Since the Bonisagus was trying to change the Covenant's special Terram Vis into another form... what if the explosion turned HIM (or at least his body) into metal? That could be the climactic battle at the end, where the players must take down this raving metallic creature?

The odd thing about the "vein" of metal that is the source of Vis, is that the metal is liquid, freezing cold, etc. The properties are always different than normal metal. The Vis is alternatively Terram, Muto, and/or just plain Vim, depending on a die roll.

Any thoughts on powers of this creature? Should it be able to use magic?

(Was that a cross post?)

The difference is whether you want to use this as a single, high-powered combat, or have a lesser effect that colors all your saga hereafter.

"Should" it? Only if you want it to and you're confident your players can handle it. Or, rather than changing the mage, maybe he succeeded in changing the Te Vis, into something "alive" - an elemental-ish creature is ugly enough. (Esp if it's a quicksilver type creature - images of the baddie from Terminator 2.)

If it's the mage himself, again - they would be guilty of attacking (and, presumably, killing) a magus of the Order to rob him and sack his Covenant. That is (to use the technical term) a "death sentence" if anyone finds out. :wink:

yup, cross post. Also see my edited "idea" post.

And another cross-edit with me - got it and responded. See addition re "quicksilver", above.

And with that, I'm offline - happy holidaze!

All the covenant changed into a bizarre looking stone including everything without magical resistance and the magi. The books, people, animals, plants were transformed, too. Even the soil down to 1 m. Locals fear the place but some get away items which are easily identified because the stone is so unnatural. The statues of the magi are now at the filii and anything you wouldn't give to your players.

Some animals or humans who were too close changed into living stone. They are not so useful, common servants but slow and immortal. Or a stone horse which doesn't afraid from the gift. Very useful but slow.
An earth spirit appeared in the place and defend some place you want to keep hidden for now. This spirit is actually your Bonisagus but seems not so.
The covenants terram source transformed into a Vi source but the produced raw vis disappear after a year if not consumed.
The legendary aura has weakened but provides +3 bonus to Muto effects.
All the former magical things changed to their opposite. Curses into benefits and helping effects into hidrances.
Useful things may be the enchantments which defend the labs and the castle if they didn't changed. Some items may be less useful in this changed form e.g. a magical sword.

Hmmmm. Good food for thought here! Thanks!

I've laid out my covenant, and had a lot of fun designing it, and the (deceased) magi within. I'd still love to hear of some Sanctum ideas for the above mentioned magi. Things to separate their labs from the norm. Especially if you have interesting ways of protecting their sanctums, that inexperienced magi would find cumbersome, but not lethal....


Former members of the covenant:
--A north african bjornaer hunter who collected exotic animals. He has several guardians around the covenant still that survived, as well as a few statues that will "come alive" to protect his sanctum.

You pretty much already described hius sanctum here :slight_smile: The thing is, most labs will have been affected by the MuVi effect, so you can place cats being hunted by rodents, inbvertted gravity places (in random spots, and not a whiole room, for example) or rtotally missmatched images from the items they represent (you sit in that comfy chair? Well it looks like your posterior is burning now...)

--A lab rat bonisagus

The epicentre of the disaster. NMI would:

  1. skyrocket the aura here
  2. Make EVERYTHING constantly mutable
  • physical laws (up down etc do not make much sense, hot can be blue and cold mean "·no"
  • magical laws (PeTe changing the color of the chair over there or ReVi puting you upside down....)
  • inhabitants: now alive and friendly, now dead and friendly, now alive and hostile... including furniture... and colors. Now it is a barren area, now it is infested with creatures....
  • Now it is a level 10 regio, now it has no aura at all.

--a Mercurian Mercere who is quite old and very active in politics.
Roman items. A nice SPQR standard of one of the Iberian legions that is imbued with some cool effect, like an equivalent to ReMe effect on the troops following it as long as it is up. Nice classical-looking stuff like marble benches and tables. Chairs like those of the Senate, scrolls and more scrolls of correspondence. Some must be mutated and be total gibberish to the reader but might provide inspirational for a Criamon. Communications items

As usual, mutated by the effect.

The entrance MUST be a triumphal arc :laughing:

Some random thoughts about some inhabitants. :slight_smile: