So I have come to realize that Ars Magica means so many different things to me. That while I love and adore the core setting as it is (and I really do, the whole nature of the historical basis of 1220 Mythic Europe fascinates the history major in me; while in the process of reading an Ars Magica book I often have Wikipedia open to basically begin my journey deepening the knoweldge of a particular place and time) its in some ways the magical system that really and truly calls to me. The whole nature of combining a technique and a form to create a magical working is fascinating and has so much potential for letting almost anything be done. This is why while the core setting is highly interesting I cannot help think about the many ways to twist and change the setting to fit various interesting campaign archtypes that I might want to play.
I'm going to post a small number of the random alternate setting ideas I have (in short, a paragraph or two for each) and then I really hope to hear the ideas from you all. Its not to take away from the core or the main, but to add to the richness that is Ars Magica.
Roman Magi - This would be a setting in which Bonisagus or a figure like him came about during the time of the Roman Empire, maybe either before or during its conversion to Christianity. His development of the Hermetic Arts and the Parma Magica came during the existence of a vast mundane empire. The nature of this would play with the changes of what it means to be a member of the Order in a society that is still unified, and probably how the existence of such widespread, organized, communal, advanced magic might turn the tide on the collapse of the Roman Empire.
The Founders - I would love a setting set in the time of the birth of the Hermetic Art. Maybe the players could be the non-Bonsiagus Founders, working to establish the Order and its Houses and the nature of its magical society and culture. Its not so much an alternate setting as a different period in time.
High Fantasy - The idea I had was that the game is set upon the discovery and settlement of the magical island that may come to be seen as Atlantis (though which would probably have a different name). The players would be the scouts chosen from the arriving settlers (probably escaping from the siege of their original homes by some marauding dark creatures) sent out to explore, examine, and discover all that this new place has to offer. The supernatural nature of the place would be quickly established, with auras of many different types all about the place. An interesting facet would be that the magic would become highly common amongst the new arrivals, as would be what is mechanically represented by the Hermetic Arts. Since the players were the first to basically go out and cover themselves in the magic of the island, they would become one of the first to truly be recognized as part of mage class. How such a society operates, develops, and manifests themselves would be an interesting feature. Such a game could take place on our Earth at some time or maybe in an alternate much more antediluvian world that is much more barbaric and monstrous both outside in the world at large as well as on the island itself.
So yeah, these are some of my ideas and I look forward to both hearing comments from you all on them as well as reading any of your alternate, parallel, sideways Ars Magica setting ideas.
The Fall of Constantinople: In this high-fantasy alternate history setting, the Byzantine Empire is beset by hordes of marauding Orcs from the east, Centaur raids from the steppe, and the vile machinations of demons from the fallen West. In his desperation, emperor Commenus has done the unthinkable and turned to Wizards to save his kingdom. He founded the Imperial Order of Hermes, an order of Wizard-Knights, to protect the realm, offering magi land and other rights in return for their feudal duties and protection of the realm. The PCs are the first recruits, the Founders of this new Order; their actions will determine the place of magic in the Empire - if they will manage to save the empire, of course.
Birthright: The gods fought, and on the mountain of Deismaar the gods died. Their divine bloodlines now flow in the veins of the descendents of that battle, that can gather power [raw vis] from the Sources of the land. Each PC can be associated with one Source (Law, Temple, Guild, and Nature), which replaces "Magic Aura" for him, and each Source bears with it some unique twists (Law steals elements from Ars Magica's Story Magic, Temple from Divine Magic, Guild from bargaining magic, and Nature from Nature Mysteries). Each Season, a PC can do the standard Birthright domain action per Season, in addition to the Ars Magica Seasonal Activities. Arts, however, cannot be increased in the standard way; one gains XP in Arts by defeating creatures of Might or other magi (hopefully NPCs...), absorbing their divine Bloodline strength. This is basically a game of Birthright, but using the Ars Magica magic system to run the game at the PC level.
Yeah, your right, this is pretty similar to what my suggestion was for the Founders. Basically tell the story of the first days right after Bonisagus shared his magic theory and the Order was created. So much potential for the players to basically make their mark on history.
It could be especially nifty if once that saga ends fast forward a some number of years after and play in a Order based on what the original players did.
Though I wouldn't mind making this Rome rather than Byzantine Empire, I totally would love this idea. It sounds really nifty and it would be highly entertaining to create and playthrough. So many potentials that could be very very fun.
This is an interesting variant, and I always did love the Birthright system and setting.
The links are pretty interesting. Reading the material listed in them provides some interesting ideas.
On Idea 1, I honestly love the whole mageocracy idea, though I wouldn't have the players try to start a rebellion but rather be part of it since I think mage rule is a good thing. hehe
On Idea 2, that is an interesting start date. I glanced through your threads but I was wondering why exactly you picked that date to start things.
It really leads to the whole cool idea of there being an Emperor of the Roman Empire upon the time that saw its begin to break up discovered the potential of magic upon meeting a Bonisagus-like figure. Creating a codified magical system he would go on to establish an Imperial Hermetic Order, which given time would establish itself as a sort of magocracy of the Empire. Even if it wasn't a magicracy the Emperor could be a Gifted magic user, eventually making it a tradition that rulers had magic. Honestly, in a situation where magic helped to end the decomposition of the Empire the Christian-faith probably wouldn't take place. Though in actual truth I wouldn't mind a changed Christianity that actually had it so that magic was a recognized and welcome aspect of the faith, basically like the Zoroastrianism way that the divine aura didn't go against those with magic. It would be an interested blend of teachings, one that could be fun I think.
Its not for everyone but I think it would be extremely fun. hehe
I picked 783 because I wanted some distance from the Founders, so the PCs are all two steps away from the founders, being trained by the founder's apprentices. But it's still early enough that the PCs have been able meet many of the founders, but not for it to be "all the time." And I didn't want it to be SUPER easy for the PCs to define the history of the Order of Hermes, got to have them work for it right?
A mageocracy during Roman times, now that sounds interesting!