I'm looking to greatly reduce the power of the Divine in my campaign. Aside from being an atheist, I greatly dislike the idea of the Church being able to topple the Order on a whim if they piss them off.
Want there to be a little more back-and-forth between priests and mages, mostly.

What's recommended, but will keep the setting mostly intact?

I'm very tempted to sidetrack the thread into a refutation of this point because it doesn't match my reading of the published material at all.

Instead I'll ask how you would expect the church to be able to accomplish this feat. Then let's look at the method and perhaps come up with a manner of preventing it while doing as little alteration to the rules as practical.

As I recall, it's stated explicitly in the material. I could look up the exact quotation if you'd like.
Further, if the rather contradictory deity decided, he could fill every point with a level 10 divine aura at a whim, so says the Realms section.

I also seem to recall some mention of the ability to imbue an entire army with impressive magic resistence, in fact, though I don't have the Divine book.

You're talking about the power of God. Your original post talked about the church.

Assuming that we agree that these are two significantly different things, which is it that you wish to power down, God or the church?

You seem to be confusing the Church with God. God can topple the Order, no problem. The Church? Only if God wants it to.

So I think one way you can manage this is to say God isn't in the business of upsetting the whole power balance of mortal society just because one religious institution wants Him to. Nowhere in canon does it say any mortal, even the Pope, can obtain miracles by asking for them.

Never mind the Order, why doesn't God destroy Satan and all the demons of Hell? Two possibilities: He can't, or He doesn't want to. The "He can't" position would be considered heresy in Mythic Europe AFAIK; I believe God's omnipotence was generally accepted in the Middle Ages (by Christian theologians I mean).

So, "God Works in Mysterious Ways." If He won't knock over the Prince of Darkness, who obviously deserves it and has it coming, then how much less likely is He to stomp a bunch of magi?

What I'm trying to say is, maybe you don't have to worry about it. There are rules in ArM5 that say the Dominion exists in certain places (mostly areas inhabited by the faithful) and its aura spreads and grows, or shrinks, according to certain rules; and in your game you can just say God doesn't deign to make exceptions. God doesn't go handing out True Faith to every Crusader in the world: True Faith is rare and requires total, lifelong commitment. And so on.

Basically, in your game, you decide how powerful the Church is and how much its power can increase. You do not have to alter the rules in order to keep the Church in check; you only need to choose not to make exceptions.

To me it's part of the whole Free Will thing.
God gives you the freedom to choose Salvation or not.
At no stage would He ever intervene directly to destroy the OoH.
(this denies you your Free Will after all)

Miracles are totally an ST call as to if they happen and what they do.

The Methods & Powers given in RoP:TD & RoP:TI are not so supremely powerful that they can topple the OoH.

True Faith , in ME is meant to be rare , treat influence by the Dominion in the same manner.
You could decide to simply decrease the number of actual Dominion auras that exist ,
or simply keep their values low.

God works in mysterious ways.

Which is to say he isn't like you, or me, or that asswipe down the street, or that real a-hole who gave you a tough time in junior high.

IF he decided, he could do "anything" - but that would take some deciding, now, wouldn't it? Pissing off the Big G is not as easy as pissing off a Bishop, who is mortal and fallible and subject to Wrath and other Cardinal Sins, unlike the Big G, who is Perfect.

If He wanted to, he could simply have said "Oh, and Europe wins the First Crusade..."- but he didn't, now, did he? So, it's more complex than "We win, you lose"- whatever that means.

Although I've never read the supplement, I played in 4th ed. Novgorod, "Dragon and the Bear." There seemed to be a nice, balanced system there regarding the pagan deities and their effects on the people. The Church was much less powerful there. That might be a place to look for some inspiration for a non-Church heavy saga.

If you wanted to play a high fantasy campaign set in Europe, but with a many gods, etc., I suppose you could. You could keep dominion-like auras, but the various churches (and their auras) could be competing with each other over followers.

That being said, I must say that while one may be an athiest, the Church is so frickin' INTERESTING to read about. It was such huge power in the middle ages. I cannot really imagine an Ars Magica campaign without it. And personally, I find the balance of dominion auras in cities to be generally a very powerful force in keeping those freakin' wierdos in the Order of Hermes in check....
I think the game is very well balanced, when all is said and done. To remove the influence of the church messes with that.

I'm an atheist, and I was one of the authors of RoP:the Divine.

As has been noted by others, there is nothing in ArM5 that indicates that the Church would "topple the Order on a whim". Indeed, Even True Faith is no longer an absolute protection from the supernatural, granting instead only a Magic Resistance (meaning that even the most buff saints can be successfully targeted by a damaging (or mind altering) spell. Furthermore, RoP:tD shows that the Divine is also on the side of the Order and magi (e.g. the Priory of St Nerius, the Zoroastrians, kabbalists, etc).

ArM5 shows that the Divine Realm could overcome in an instant the combined forces of all three other Realms - not the moral agents of the Divine. The Divine Realm clearly has a plan, which does not include "toppling" the Order of Hermes, or killing all of Mythic Europe's mages.

There is already a lot of "back-and-forth" between Hermetic mages and priests. Priests, unless they have a supernatural virtue, are no match, mystically speaking, to Hermetic magi. Hermetic magi, although disadvantaged by the Dominion, can still sway the minds of scores, hundreds or even thousands of mundanes. They would, with difficulty, be able to stop the plots of determined bishops (who were foiled, historically speaking, by mundane foes, all the time) and even popes.

The Church is not the infallible agent of the Divine. Even angels are not infallible or invincible.

I think if you re-read the setting material with less anti-Church bias, you will find that it can accommodate the "back-and-forth" that you desire.

If you assume that miracles don't have infinite Penetration, then magi can build magic resistances to the divine more effectively. However, this would make the powers of the Infernal much much more powerful.

Alternatively, you could decrease the frequency of (or increase the difficulty of praying for) miracles. This would mean that the bulk of "miracles" are really Divine powers from saints or angels (and thus can be magically resisted by Hermetic magi (and devils).

I rather like this idea. It seems "paradigmey" enough to work; the idea being that God is a Magnificently Powerful Bastard but also Beyond Your Ken. He could intervene directly and solve your problems, but He's almost certainly not listening to you at the moment. There are a number of saints and angels flitting about, though, that might put in a good word... IIRC, being only vaguely Catholic, the whole idea of praying to saints is that they'll put in a good word (not to be confused with The Good Word) with the big man.
Biblically, Abraham was able to petition God directly for intervention, but it took quite a bit of time, and just got pared down to a bet... which 'Bram lost. All things considered, the faithful in your saga are probably better off shooting for someone a pit lower on the pay scale.

Yes, I intend to reduce the power of the Divine. This meaning God.
(Indeed, he shall be just a very powerful demon opposed to the other sort... though I have no intention of sharing this unless the characters decide to look realllllly deep for it for some peculiar reason. It has no purpose other than helping me fill in background details and reminding me to skew towards the darker end.)

So, yeah, Infernal has something more of an influence.
Even more importantly I have the notion of Faerie/Infernal/Magical influence being (with the lessened divine influence) more influential on a global scale.

I don't, however, want to remove it completely so that Mythic Europe turns into a patchwork quilt of competing Auras. The Divine would then be the backbone of the mortal superstructure preventing that.

Although yes I could keep God as a big muckity muck and just have him decide to pull out partially and leave his agents to do all the work.

Ultimately, though, there seems to be a lot of trying to convince me NOT to lessen the Big Dude's power. Some more suggestions on how I might would be nice, though what has been said already is very helpful, thanks.
(Thanks for the assorted corrections, by the by ;D)

Some concrete stuff like rules variations, too.
Obvious things like altering the Aura modifiers... how pervasive Dominion auras would be...


  • use 4ed's aura realm interaction chart for the divine auras. (Be warned that this means that most magi will have less reason to prevent a house church...)
  • Give the Lord an actual divine might. This means a) that he can be resisted, and b) he can't throw as many miracles around...

And there is the simple way:

  • Keep the lord out of the game. Just play with his servants... That way you don't have to change anything, and you still have him as a reserve...

My suggestion was to simply have less Dominion auras.
Simply reduce the value of all Dominion auras where humans live by 02.
This means fewer changes to the rules , or the Realm Interaction table.

You may want to consider how to treat the Dominion, then. Here are some radical suggestions:

  • There is no Dominion, the "dominion" aura is an Infernal aura. The Church would emphasize god's wrath, fear of god, and so on, and is essentially an institution supporting the feudal order by keeping the peasants fearful and ignorant, and levying taxes from them. "Angels" are manifest in their dreadful glory, as per the Divine - frightful balls of flame, beasts whose mere sight causes madness, and so on. Heretics and diabolists worshiping other demons are common in the Church.
  • The Dominion is God's special invention, bestowed upon his worshippers. It is only applicable to true followers, which would probably be Catholics. Heretics, Jews, and Muslims raise an Infernal aura (as would Zoroastrans and so on), as they are deceived by devils. As a powerful daemon, God is highly limited in power; he probably can do only a few miracles per time, and so on. Saints and holy-men are essentially another breed of wizards, attuned to his Divine realm, and worship may work like the Ascension to the Hall of Heroes (increasing the power of the god worshipped).

I would personally just keep things much as they are, however. I would only disallow any miracles proper, reducing "miracles" to Divine powers from angels or human "magic-users". No direct Divine Intervention. That includes the formation of divine auras. Since you as SG decides the distribution of angels, divine creatures, auras, regios, strength of priests in various Divine-magic traditions, and so on - you decide how powerful the Divine really is.

I find Mythic Eurpe to be a very accomodating setting, and see no problem with a version of it where the Divine is weaker. I don't think any special changes need be made to the rules to facilitate this (except perhaps the miracle rules in The Divine, as noted).

P.S as an atheist, I just want to say that being an atheist has nothing to do with any of this.

“I greatly dislike the idea of the Church being able to topple the Order on a whim if they piss them off.” - Jachra

In my humble opinion:
Is this statement based on Divine Power or the social power of the church? I have kept the direct intervention of Deus Rex out of my games, favoring a more Lovecraft based approach to the Lord Almighty. The dominion stands as is, and miracles can occur by beseeching various saints and angels - but no parting of the Red Sea or the Seven Plagues of Egypt. God is just not home to answer the phone. On the other hand, the Church and its direct social influence is a big matter in my games and if your thought that the Church can topple the Order is similar to the Pope’s call for the Crusades in the Holy Lands, I would like to suggest an opportunity…

Emperor Frederick II, Stupor mundi, is interested in supply various individuals with patronage in regards to the natural sciences, natural magic, alchemy, astronomy, astrology, and other matters of importance. All those interested are requested to send messenger to the Royal Courts in the City of Palermo.

As the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, Fredrick had many resources and supported those of the Jewish and Islamic faiths in his empire, bringing scorn from the Catholic Church.  He was the King of Jerusalem and as well as Emperor, kept Arabic astrologers, Jewish Alchemists, Natural Magicians, scholars, philosophers, linguistics, artists, and many other hedge wizards and great thinkers.  According to Cthulhu Lore, the Necronomicon was translated out of Arabic into Latin by one of the members of his court.  He was excommunicated twice and vilified as the Antichrist.  Even still, Frederick flaunted his influence against the Church and got away with it.
Now, what if Frederick gives his support and patronage to a Hermetic Covenant?  The agreement to translate various works from Arabic, Greek, or other esoteric languages into Latin, writing and dedicating books on the subjects of Artes Liberales for Frederick, or setting about to form a hermetic university for him.  These activities give your covenant the support to avoid the Church, even so much as it might bring several tribunals under the protection of Frederick while skirting away from breaking the Code.  The possibilities are endless.

Your humble servant who is apologetic about his overly long post.

Ahh, my heart warms in meeting another Dominion-basher, come friend, let's enjoy some fine ale and mutton by the fireside and swap stories of church-burning and crusader-slaying...

My advice ?

Greately lessen the frequency of real miracles, and only allow them to be granted for aid (not in combat or contest), redress, or deliverance of the faithful, never for punishment or retribution or defeating an opponent. An exception might rarely be done for the Infernal when it's really dramatically appropriate, but the direct, irresistible intervention of the Big Guy should never be granted for miracles that, directly or indirectly, harm, banish, destroy, or defeat non-believers, sinners, or faerie/magical beings or things, or in most cases, even Infernal beings or things.

Retributive "miracles", such as when St. Peter dispelled the flight spell of Simon Magus, The Plagues of Egypt, or St. Boniface felled the Donar Oak (cfr. GotF), should be strictly only accomplished through Holy Methods/Powers, invoking God's aid, or the Divine Powers of saints and angels, all of which can be stopped by superior magical resistance or overcome by more powerful magic/supernatural powers. When it acts to overcome or defeat an opponent, God's power should always be mediated through a finite, fallible agent.

Moreover, strictly enforce the requirement that the Dominion can only exist in an area where continuous Divine worship is practicized. As soon as services can be stopped, or most of the populace can be swayed from attending them, the Divine aura starts to decay. As a rule of thumb, the Dominion shrinks by 1 every year that worship is neglected in all ordinary non-consecrated areas (cities, dwellings places, fields, etc.), quicker if active efforts are done to sway the area to another realm. A Divine aura can be allowed to last longer (even decades or centuries) in churches or actual consecrated ground, or the usual duration for Divine regiones or auras that are not linked to the Dominion, but are created by Divine beings or things.

I sorely suffer from the same temptation! But I'm late to this party and I see that this has already been debated as well as the distinguishing between the Dominion, miracles and the Church. I think I can resist...

Don't be shy. Ranald! You are not only wished a warm welcome, but thanks and gratulations for making a brilliant first appearance with a very interesting subject!

In fact he did! 4th edition Triamore supplement "Triamore" was exactly that -my own saga is moduled on it- a covenant given a fief with a castle and grants to run a library! Or maybe you knew and I was just to daft to realize your question was rethoric.

I would have love to coincide our saga with Frederick II, both these things and his Sicilian roots and it's cultural melting pot, but I had to place the saga elsewhere and at a later time period, even having someone else grant the covenant its fief (Henry II of England).

I think you've already gotten a lot of inspirations on how to limit the power of the Dominion and/or Church. So instead I'll just suggest that to keep the setting intact I think you'd also have to take a look at the Order itself. Why? Because the form of the Order is in part influenced by the world around it, and one important factor is the Church and/or the Dominion. The parts of the Code not to meddle in mundane affairs is probably to avoid a mass movement against the magi. While the threat of mass confrontation with ordinary mundanes in itself might deter the magi (I at least think that it would seriously endanger the Order), a deciding factor in that threat is the decisive support the mundanes would get from the Church and the power of the Dominion - whether the Auras of major mundane settlements, the impact of divine powers in individuals, or even miracles. The threat of meddling with mundane affairs is lessened if 'downsizing' the Dominion or the Church.

Thus I think you have to, if wanting to keep setting integrity, to either change the Order's role in society (making it much more influental) or strengthen or change some trends within the Order to keep the non-meddling enforced.

Some possible ways to do the second -as I think the first would go even further away from the setting as we know it- could be to argue that the mundanes could steal beat the Order, or large groups of magi, even without the added edge of the Dominion. Whether you let mundane potentates have advisors or powers that give them an edge or simply just argue that the overwhelming size of the mundane population makes it impossible to firmly dominate. Or you might argue that a majority of magi value their time to study and delving deeper into things much more than power in terms of secular dominance er hegemony; and that they would rather use limited energy to put down the odd powerhungry, deviant, magus than spend years fighting the mundanes. Lastly you might argue that the non-interference with the mundanes is not due to the fear of the mundanes themselves - but that by the decree of not interfering you also put a significant cap on the amount of land, ressources and men any magus can field in any conflict. In this way the cap is to ensure that no magi-led principalities will rise and that Mythic Europa will not end as a burned out battlefield for groups of magi with armies at their command.

However you decide to diminish the Church and/or the Dominion I think you have to decide on motives for how to keep the setting as close to how it is, even if the church has been emasculated.

He He! :laughing: Doesn't surpise me one bit! But I'm glad at heart that no one has to sit at any fire alone! Even if we should meet in retoric battle and clash of words whether bashing or shielding the Dominion :smiley:

Now that everybody is tossing around their 'creeds' I might as well state that I am an agnostic in mind, a Christian in culture, and a spiritual-minded humanist at heart.

You are correct, I was corrected in the statement that the Church could wipe out the Order at a whim (it would need to be God's whim. I was then partially collect based upon a reading of his direct power, not of his agents.)

Oooh, I like that one very much. It's exactly the sort of effect I was going for.

Direct 'divine' (so to speak) intervention though ought to be present. Every so often the Dark God needs to smite someone. Though limited would certainly be helpful. Non-omniscient, non-omnipotent.
I'm getting more interested in persuing this line of thought since one of the players is expressing interest in research into Divine Auras (if I didn't know better I'd say he'd been checking out the forums here.) If his magus gets too obvious I could have divine servants knocking...

I think I will reduce the effects of Divine Auras, that ought to be helpful. Possibly Infernal ones as well, but that's more of a maybe.

Interesting idea, Ranald. I think from that I'll take the idea of a heretic King or something of the sort.

Wanderer, your animosity towards Dominion warms my heart and sings of brotherhood. From you I shall take the notion of Degradation. (The High One is of limited attention, after all.) Indeed, he might need to strip Dominion from certain places to reinforce others in times of need, interesting...

Furion, I was just thinking about that. Possibilities: While the Order may indeed win against an all-mundane population, it may bring a tremendous cost against the Order. Still, dark god or no, they have some Divine Aegis. Needs his precious worshippers for something... not so crude as power, I'll figure it out...
Definitely the bit about most Magi frankly not caring about conquest (after all, they're moral people, too,) and being perfectly willing to help smite would-be conquerers.
Possible also that I might go for the 'low coherency' option in the book. Tribunal is more of a social meeting (and for major matters.)

While I do want it to be a hair more Mythical, I agree in that I don't want it to be fantasy land.

Excellent! We'll need to crack open a new keg at this rate...

Thank you each, these two points I missed:
“Moreover, strictly enforce the requirement that the Dominion can only exist in an area where continuous Divine worship is practiced. As soon as services can be stopped, or most of the populace can be swayed from attending them, the Divine aura starts to decay.” - The Wanderer

“In fact he did! 4th edition Triamore supplement "Triamore" was exactly that -my own saga is moduled on it- a covenant given a fief with a castle and grants to run a library!” - Furion Transsanus

On the first point, I believe Lord Dunsany’s novel The Blessing of Pan advances this exact point.  A local youth of strange origin sways the locals of a rural area into worshipping the primal god Pan and abandon the Church.  One by one, the youth of the area join the growing congregation as the staunch, elder Christians pass on to their eternal reward.  Finally, the local priest is left alone, powerless, in his church with a growing desire to join his neighbors in the grove. 

And on the second, I completely forgot about Triamore, I was thinking more of Frederick’s court in Sicily as he avoided German and did not return until 1236.  It was a melting pot of cultures from east and west, ranging from Michael Scot from Scotland to his Syrian astrologer Theodor.  It was here that he established the University of Sicily in 1224.  Imagine the possibilities of combining the foundation of the University with the formation of a Covenant.  The Covenant could also included many Ex Miscellanea magi and non-hermetic magi, all under the patronage and protection of the Emperor.  Just imagine the Natural Magician, Olaus Wormius, and the plots that could be generated from him.  Or later trading for a copy of the newly penned Livre d’Eibon.  Add even if Frederick was constantly at odds with the Pope, what would the magi do to obtain a copy of Liber Sacratus, the Grimoire of Pope Honorius?  I just wasn’t thinking of the rest of his Majesty’s far-flung realm.

Then again Pope Honorius was the guardian of Frederick II and reputed to have wrote the Liber Sacratus.  He supported the Universities of Paris and Bologna, and instituted that the clergy would receive teaching in theology, reading, writing, and other basic scholastic pursuits.  A different setting could be that Pope Honorius III realizes that the Lord God helps those who help themselves and becomes the patron of that learned instution, the Hermetic Order.  It could be that Emperor Frederick II is the Antichrist and is collecting infernalists, goetic magi, and other damned magic, and our hope lies in the Pope and the Church and its new Hoplites.  Or, taking a idea from Kabbalah (4th Edition Ars Magica), the Church is mystically powerless when taking the offensive, allowing the Mother Church’s Crusaders take the lead.  Instead of the sword and cross, it is the chant and incantation of the Magi providing the offense for the Mother Church.  The magi work the pope to safe guard the Order from Church reprisals (Think something like John Carpenter’s Vampire$, the magi hunting down demons, infernalists, and other magical threats)

Just some other ideas to mull over.


Something that has an authentic medieval flavor, and limits the power of God as you seem to want, is the Manichean heresy. Basically, the idea is that there is not one deity, but two: a god of Heaven and a separate god of the Earth. The god of Heaven has limited power and influence over the physical world of Earth (his power is mainly spiritual having to do with the afterlife).

In your Saga you could say that the Manichean cosmology is true. You still have a Divine but its power is not unlimited. The god of Earth (called Rex Mundi in some historical sects/cults) would not be aligned with the Divine Realm at all, instead with (your choice of) either Magic or Infernal.

There's a lot more to read and say about Manicheism - it has connections to real, historical medieval secret societies (historical Hermeticism?) and, according to some questionable accounts, the Templar heresy. Manicheism in fact was a proper religion, not a heretical offshoot of Christianity but something that came about on its own, and I only call it a "heresy" because it was viewed as such by the medieval church.