An Alternate Mythic Europe

I'm currently planning out my ArM5 campaign, and one of the features I'm not keen on is the wide-spread knowledge and integration of magic within the setting. Depending what source material you read, the impression could be that all of the major spiritual and temporal powers are well aware of the Order of Hermes and tolerate or even encourage their activity. Personally, I'd like the Order to be far more secretive and for there to be a great deal more cynicism about magic among the cognoscenti of society.

However, I'm also struggling a little with the philosophy of the isolationism and non-intervention in mundane matters. Why?! There are no secular powers in Europe that could stand up to a serious assault by the Order - a Rego specialist and Ignem specialist working together could destroy whole armies, given enough time. Which suggests that the true concern is either with divine power, faerie power or infernal power. And here is where my problem begins.

I hate the near-omnipotence of faeries in earlier ArM editions. Faerie's ability to shape reality within high Faerie auras / regios makes a degree of sense to me (although this might be better reflected as a +2 on magic rolls per level of aura, rather than the deus ex machina way it is often phrased). However, when faerie displeasure allows them to extend effects into Divine and Magical auras, or even grow the boundaries of their own aura, then I get uncomfortable. I am also not at all convinced about continual suggestions that villagers still worship their pagan faerie gods alongside participating in Christian ritual - we're talking about 1220 after all, some 800 years after conversion in Western Europe.

I'm not a huge fan of the absolute omnipotence of the Divine either. Perhaps the ArM5 sourcebook will clear it up (if I ever get it!) but it strikes me that the power of the divine is largely a defensive one - it prevents corruption, it removes the power of fake idols, it cowers demons. However, I'm not interested in the introduction of theomancy, as that seems to go against much of the nature of the Divine, which isn't about wielding divine power so much as placing your trust in the divine to wield it where and when it's appropriate. Divine power should significantly undermine the use of magic, perhaps to a greater extent than it currently does, but my vision of mythic europe does not include the calling down of miracles (and it certainly doesnt include absurd flying elephant-lions, as per The Winter's Tale!)

I am thinking that what the Order are afraid of is a union of Secular and Sacred power, however. True Faith combined with secular authority could potentially undo the Order, if a sufficiently righteous holyman were to march with a mundane army, his purity might extend his magical immunity to those he put under-his-wing, as it were. Might this be another reason why second-sons of nobles frequently entered the clergy?

However, this approach might suggest a deal more politicking within the Order as well. The only houses that one would think crave the secrecy and isolation that the order traditionally preserves is Bonisagus and perhaps Verditius and Criamon. Jerbiton might actually be forging closer ties with secular authority in order to undermine the delicate balance of power and present an opportunity to wage war on the Divine (or at least secure the Order from pre-emptive strikes). Bjornaer and Merinita might similarly have their own agendas for weakening divine authority by enhancing other traditions of power.

Might we see the children of Magi born without the Gift replicating nobles and entering clerical careers? After all, true faith is by no means a requisite for serving in the church in these times! Just ask Thomas a Beckett (although of course, he had a miraculous conversion to True Faith on assuming high office - the Divine works in mysterious ways!).

I wonder whether weakening those elements in the background that currently grate with me might have too many knock on consequences. Although in part, this also makes me wonder whether current background hasn't really been thought through quite well enough. Which perhaps boils down to the fundamental of: What is the Order of Hermes for? Why do these magi sit for up to 200 years in hidden towers delving into the secrets of the universe? What is their ultimate goal? What do they seek to achieve? If it's personal power, why do they have a rule that says they shall not exercise it?! This isn't something I'm sure we have a truly convincing answer for.....

You could just decide that the biggest check on the power of the OoH , is The Order itself.
The ruling council of senior magi have a strict non-interventionist policy ,
that is rigidly enforced.
Introduce a Balance of Powers , if the Infernal takes a direct active hand , so does the Divine.
If Faerie or Magic powers are involved , Seelie and Unseelie oppose each other
and things like elemental forces oppose each other for Magic Realm involvement.
This still allows behind the scenes manipulation by various powers ,
but direct involvement gets cancelled out.
The Divine could be the ineffable Trump Card , but allowing Free Will ,
this simply does not happen.

I dio not see how your alternative approach differs from the current setting. Appart from the fact that there are mechanics for direct godly intervention with die rolls (I hate that wilt a passion) ther rest is pretty much as you described it.



I can't really see the divine as being other than omnipotent and omnicent... Kinda the signature traits there....:wink:

Rule that says we shall not exercise our power? Hardly.
The rule is there so that powerdrunk young magi will not force their elders to stirr from their studies of the really important stuff because some fool has drawn the local nobility to make siege on the covenant. Most magi wouldn't want to rule the world - that takes too much time away from ones studies...

About the divine... remember that GOD is oomniscient and omnipotent. His servants are not. if one of his servants is not acting as a channel od direct godly intervention (God is using him as a medium) he is no more powerful than a demon, magical being or faerie of equivalent magic might against a hermetic magus.

Also, take in mind that most magi are christians. The people IMS attend mass regularly and are quite awed by the fact that they cannot smash through the divine with impunity. Creates a sense of a greater power to the magi. We also have a local priest that is scared as hell about the characters: it happens when they tell him stuff they have done lately! :smiley: "Well, yesterday I pillaged the corpses of the undead after we smashed their skulls with glee. I think it is not a sin, but just to be sure. What do you say brother Phillipe? Have I sined?" :wink:



But my point is WHY are they studying? What is their desired end result? Bonisagus studied with a theoretical purpose, which he partly achieved. Other magi study to continue this theoretical work, particularly those in the House he founded. But what of the others? Why do Tremere, Tytalus, Flambeau mages sit and study and gain more knowledge and magical power? What is their motivation?!

For flambeau it would be bigger spells! Nothing can compare with the sensation of a magnitude of 8+ runnign through your body! :stuck_out_tongue:

For tytalus it would be to best bigger challenges. Some might try to best the code and control mundane society, I guess, but they usually find more than their match in the form of a marching.

Tremere is more tricky, but I guess that they see the growth of the order (and to control it) as their objective. Mundane society does not interest them much. In a sense magi are likely top see mundanes as unawaken human beings: not much above sheep. Getting a larger sheep farm sounds rather stupid when you can try to best your equals and gain power over them. It is better if the sheep and cows that are mundane beings do not stampede (war against you, the jerks) to interrupt your really worthy projects.



This is an example of something I'm not comfortable with. In my mind, if a servant of the Divine is not acting as a direct channel for divine power, he's actually far less powerful than a demon, magical being or fairy... in fact, he's just a man wearing a funny dress! :wink:

I guess what I want is a Europe that is much closer to "real" history, with magi stuck on top. The problem then is why, within that setting, the magi aren't more influential and centre stage.

Another thing that grates with me. Given the dogmatic nature of the medieval church, I can't see how magi can wield exceptional power, undergo intense intellectual study into the very fabric of reality, and still retain a devotion to the Divine. Awe, respect, curiosity - certainly. And some will retain faith, of course. But can't see it being the majority. Why would they? After all, in previous ArM editions at least, their was a belief that on death, magical spirits go to a different end than those of the faithful.

There are probably as many motivations as there are magi - for some it is the dream of imortality. Some want status among other magi. And some are just living their lives... (I know one greek magus who really wants nothing more than having lots of good sex (and develops magic for that purpose))

I said christians: they believe in christ. I did not say catholics, so they do not necessarily respect the teachings of the church or any other religious intitution if they think they are wrong.

Also, magi have this idea that final twilight might mean that you go somewhere else and not to heaven, but there is quite an intense debate inside the order itself if this means that your soul goes there or your spirit goes there. Quite a different thing.




Maybe to attain the perfection that God has given them the ability to strive for...
"He (she) with the most Magic, Wins"

I find it a bit hard to accept that Magi can be Christian in ME ,
but not Catholic (for the most part).
Are heretical sects teaching Theology?
What particular Houses of Worship are they going to ,
where they are not exposed to Catholic Teachings?

Saying that Magi can be Christians ,
but not necessarily respecting of any Religious Institution
strikes me as a very modern sentiment.
The OoH is not composed entirely of Eremites (that i am aware of).

Yeah, that's it. They're all trying to beat the previous high score :wink:

The tenets of the church are not contradicted by any evidence presented to the magi. In fact there are Christian saints, and actual angels meandering around mythic Europe in accordance with Christian teachings.

The magi were socialized and live in a predominantly Christian society.

Given that these are true I think it preposterous to propose that most magi aren't Christian.

Why would wielding exceptional power or undergoing intense intellectual study into the very fabric of reality predispose the magi to abandon their beliefs?

"I've achieved great power, therefore I must be horribly mistaken about the nature of reality?'' I don't buy it.

Having the power to play god would deffinatly make me question common beleifs. Esspecially since you can just "escape" to final twilight when nearing the end. The fact that magi who were though "lost" to twilight have returned at crucial moments (see voting in the rhine) further supports the opinion that magi play by rules that give a different end game.

Also the more knowledge one has the more prone they are to question the rules that are decreed. It's fine for the serfs to be ordered about to the wishes of the church but give them a high degree of education and the power the smite anyone who tries to force them into something and watch how many still blindly follow along.

With just those 2 major points I could easily accept that a large quantity of magi aren't Catholic.

On the other hand I could see several trying to "infiltrate" the church to promote their own agendas.

I see the Magi "playing god" as completely consistant with these common beliefs. It is rarely those who are sittting attop of the social order who question it.

How many edicts has the church given to the order? To my understanding none.

I'm not seeing how this furthers your position that the magi are catholic christians...Care to explain?

The order in general your correct but they give plenty to the populace in general on how you should live/behave. It's these that would be questioned and result in non-catholic christians

I am a bit late to this party, but I would like to say that I've always thought the rule was to prevent wizards from killing each other over mundane entanglements, rather than any fear of the mundanes themselves.

For instance, if wizards try to work for the mundanes, they may very well end up fighting proxy wars (which is exactly what happened in pre-Hermetic history IMS). If wizards wrest power from mundanes, they become a threat to other wizards (whereas the mundanes really aren't, as you say), and Hermetic law and order go out the window.

So I look at the non-interference clause more as a preventive measure - if wizards start meddling in mundane politics, they'll start massacring one another like the mundanes do.

Magi grow up catholic Christians and they sit on the very top of the social order. They will therefore be extremely disinclined to rock the boat.

Mythic Europe, the official version, is very accommodating. It can certainly accommodate a nurturing, sustaining, less-active Divine. I personally very much dislike any treatment of God in the setting. The Divine should be felt mostly by its human servants much like Magic is felt mainly by the magi - various traditions of holy magic and supernatural abilities. Divine creatures making an appearance should be as rare as dragons or giants taking center stage. And God never makes an appearance.

In regards to what the Order is even up to, I think the Order as a whole really isn't doing anything, and doesn't have any one opinion about meddling in mundane affairs. Some magi bolster mundane civilization (Jerbiton), others see it as a threat (Bjornaer wilderists), and most are in between. I agree that most see the rule against meddling mainly as a precaution against enmity between magi more than fear of mundane or even Divine power.

I don't particularly like the no-intervention clause of the Code. I would be hard pressed to come up with a long-timeline saga that won't challenge it in some way. In my mind, the conflicts with the mundanes are too endemic for too many magi for this clause to serve the Order's interests, and so it will be abandoned (or rather, "reinterpreted").

In my ME, many magi would also be pagan, and peasants too (ME is not historical Europe, paganism makes a lot of sense and isn't strictly even heretical when done as a deal rather than veneration/worship). Many magi would also be Christian, but heresies (particularly gnostic self-glorifying ones) would probably be common.