ArM SANS DEUS saga setting

I have a Saga Idea that wish I could run, others might find it interesting: would love some feedback.

Essentially the divine realm permanently disappears.
All other auras increase and once dead auras reappear.
Also, inspired by night of the living dead, a plague strikes the world and the 1/3 (or more) of all the populace die. Those that die are now zombies.
Magical creatures, Fae, undead and demons roam the land openly.
Most cities will crumble unable to sustain and defend themselves. Of course, there is a possibility of magical, fae and infernal cities.

The game would be gritty and dark.
Every sojourn from a covenant would be a mortal affair. Traveling to a nearby covenant to make copies of summa to refresh the library would take on the feel of a deadly quest. Covenants, especially young ones, are likely to be isolated and in perpetual siege mode. Infact, players will be stuck in the situation wondering if this is just a local event or if everyone is facing it. Only after many stories will then come to know that this is global problem and not one that their tribunal alone faces.

Think ArM meets night of the living dead meets 28 days later.

If I ran the saga I would not allow for the possibility of the divine returning nor would I allow for the PC's to save the day and reinstate the divine. To me that would be super lame. :unamused:

What causes all of this. I would not define it. Perhaps god is dead, or satan has defeated him, or perhaps there never was a god.

I think this scenario could be a nice surprise and change of pace especially if your players never see it coming. Dont forwarn them, also leave the cause of what is happening a mystery. :smiling_imp:


no comments? :cry:

I guess its a sh@##y idea :blush:

Dude, give it longer than an's a slow board mostly.

IMC: to gritty for me. I don't do apocalypses.

Have you read the Towing Jehovah, Blameless in Abaddon and the Eternal Footman by James Morrow? I think you'd get a kick out of them.

To be honest I dont read much fiction... not because I am "above it" or anything prententious like that. As I said I am philosophy student. There are so many subdisciplines in phi. And if I read just .02% of one sub discipline in phi I would still not be finished with the list before I die. Thus, I always feel very guilty about reading fiction. Of course, I feel guilty about reading gaming material. But I do it less often. :laughing:

right now I have a class on kants ethics
and another on spinoza

reading those guys is like reading stero instructions :unamused:

crap I assumed those were fiction, are they? :open_mouth:

yes, they are fiction and have a rather satirical take on religion. Towing Jehovah involves finding God's corpse in the ocean....

A bit too gritty and horror for me. I would be concerned that the game would be too combat-oriented, and I don't really enjoy horror anything (except World War Z - wonderful book! Not too horrory, though).

If the focus of the game would be constructing something positive out of this mess, rather than merely surviving - I'd be very interested.

If you want to run such a game, and you don't found a group in your local area, you might want to try to play online. You can set up a game on this board's Play-by-Post forum, or try to create a chat-based or voice-over-ip based game (or combine both; I use OpenRPG). I'm afraid I haven't had too much luck with such approaches, but others have :slight_smile:

The lack of time to read books is a real problem. I'm a physics PhD student with a BA in philosophy, and have tons of philosophy books I want to read sitting on my shelf only partly-read (Kant's critique, Plato's collected works...). But I've more-or-less realized I'll never read them, and am focusing on reading more current works - mostly on history and science, such as a biography of Mao (having realized I know nothing about China!), Brian Green's The Fabric of the Universe (physics, at the popular level), or the Ethnograpgic Project (humankind's deep history). My reading in physics itself is largely limited to articles and skimming the rare textbook; not counting these as reading...


when I first started philosophy a professor gave students in a phi of science class a piece of advice. He said that unless you know the math you should not speculate about contemporary physics, because all the metaphors and ordinary language explanations of the phenomena only really make sense and can be understood if you get the math. I didnt like that, but found that he was right. This is a pity for me because my math sucks.

When I was young my math teachers would say, "any number to the zero power is one." and I would ask why, their response was that I just have to memorize it. That really put me off so I never picked up math skills.

Later I learned that math was actually a very rational practice. Wow, you can prove that any number to the zero power is one with set theory, kool! too bad I dont have the time to go back and learn all that math. If I do ever get the time its on my to do list

About the saga,

yes it could be combat heavy. BUT it also could have lots of non-combat roleplaying possibilities. E.G., Do religious charachters lose faith or is it stengthened? There is lots of room for doing arcane investigation and other things. etc.

But, yes, the saga would be dark. While I would not have it be completely nihilistic, were everything is pointless, I would not have it all easily resolved: no return of the divine. here the goal is something more than survival. How do the characters live in the world and improve things: how do they get beyond survival without hope of a returh of the divine.

My opinion? Not my "cup of tea."

I deal with enough people day to day that seem Hell-bent on proving the non-existence of God. I wouldn't want it in a role-playing setting. I don't care for feeling "hopeless" because it's not in my nature.

One of the things that interested us (my group) about Ars Magica is that the Divine is a real force in the world. We fell in love with the setup of Mythic Europe, and all of its parts.

In the end, it's all up to personal preference...but with any game where religion is brought into the mix, tread lightly with dropping the "God doesn't exist or was defeated by Satan or dies off," as you may offend some of your group. I'm sure, however, that you know your group. Not telling your players about something like that may step on toes.

My own story that I have the players running through is very "dark" within itself, as the Order of Hermes is quickly falling apart. The Lost Lance has been found (Lancea Magica, which penetrates Parma Magica), and a war has been started with the Church (and the Order has been framed for the assassination of the Pope). The players' covenant is becoming a refuge for the remaining members of the order who have gone into hiding.

I dont currently have a group. Although my old gaming group consisted of many hyper paladin types and a few zug-zug smash and bash types. Which explains to some degree my interest in the dark and philosophically complex games.

all those years of absolutely good warriors killing the absolutely evil on epic heroic quests. :unamused: I found the clear division between good and evil black/white very stiffling.. give me some grey :laughing:

I suppose it's easy with my group, as we are all devoted Christians in real life anyways. Heck, a couple of our number (including myself) went to school to become pastors (our leaving was not a lapse in was a falling out with the the people running our church).

Religion is always a touchy subject. I've gone to war with one of my history professors because she thought of her "Western Civ" class more as an atheist's training camp...and was NOT pleased that there was someone like me in her class (intelligent, educated, and set in my ways devoted to God). It was a bloody mess (not literally of course) that led to my getting a failing grade, five students dropping the course (I was the stubborn one), and her curriculum going under investigation by the college. If she had just taught history without going out of her way to make pot shots at my faith, or even teaching outright lies, I wouldn't have had a problem.

Every day I found myself asking "What does this have to do with Western Civilization?"

Now, I know that we probably wouldn't agree on philosophies in real life, and I can respect that. I'm just saying that a group dynamic is hard to forge when you bring a game with real life elements into it. I just happen to be fortunate to game twice a week with like-minded individuals.

good luck in finding that group, BTW.

Man, you guys have some sucky teachers...

Don't get me wrong, I'm as strident an atheist as any, but even I would be hard pressed to paint the history of western civilization as having much of anything to do with atheism... [I'm not that knowledgeable, but it seems a little thing called the Catholic Church had a rather more substantial contribution...]

Finally, a good teacher.

That's pretty true. I'm afraid my math skills aren't all that hot either, which really does hurt my understanding :frowning: Of course, I know the basics, but I've got a friend with a real in-depth understanding of mathematics and he always manages to find connections with geometry, theorems in functional analysis (which I've never even heard of), symmetry-group theory, and so on that really shed light on the problems and give him new ideas. His understanding of physics is just deeper. It's owe-inspiring, but rather depressing for me too... :blush:

Just wondering - where? Cause I've been following the "New Atheists" from the atheist side with considerable sympathy, but it doesn't look like there is a place on earth where that's the case...

Sounds cool.

As long as the goal is constructive, and realizable in the campaign's time (i.e., say, within a year of playtime?), I won't categorize the campaign as "oppressive". But if the only progress possible is to make slight improvements and survive pitifully - then there is just too little point for me to enjoy things.

If I were to join such a game, I'd work towards re-establishing a new ordered society - perhaps not a New World Order, but a stable region. Probably based on either a secular magi-led society (a la Tremere) or a return to paganism (of some sort). It's not like there wasn't civilization before the Divine rose to prominence!

I really wouldn't fancy going down this direction. I don't think I could take the unrelenting bleakness or the non-historicity of it all.

I'm very firmly atheist in real life but I why would I take that to the game? The game is about fantasy and wonder and the strange and unknowable. One of our troupe is also atheist (or at least, doesn't have much truck with religion) and he does choose to bring that to the game; he hasn't played a non-pagan character yet. Personally, I'd find that limiting and I do tend to play "conformist" characters as I feel it grounds them in the period better.

I just think that if you start to remove the pillars on which the game world is balanced then either you have a wobbly game or you find something to replace it with.

But hey, it's your saga. Do what you've gotta do.

That's an unfortunate example. I've had some wonderful teachers (religious, agnostic, and atheist)'s just that this one left a particularly foul taste in my mouth.

She didn't assert that the church had nothing to do with Western Civ, it was the fact that every class period had at LEAST one or two comments about the Bible being "rubbish" or "of course we know better than to believe that."

Perhaps I was out of line with "Atheist training camp." I should have said "Militant Anti-Religious bigotry."

Yes, she was a terrible teacher....I found out too late that she has a 25% turnover rate for class drops for this very reason, and I'm not sure why the college keeps her around.

My point was is that you can teach a subject without cramming your own personal opinions down people's throats. I've had a Biology prof who was a creationist, but taught evolution because it's part of the curriculum, and it's part of modern scientific theory. I've also had an atheistic philosophy prof who loved a friendly chat about religion, and found my faith "refreshing."

Bad teachers always seem to be the ones that you never forget, unfortunately.

People I tend to work with have a bad tendency of being vocal about their opinions, and I make it a point to not talk religion or politics in polite company. It always tends to come up, though, even when I have nothing to do with it....then, of course, I get dragged into it, because everyone at work knows that I was once going to be a pastor.

I also live in America, where everyone NEEDS to vocalize their opinion, regardless of if they know the subject matter or not. I find that working with undergrads is even worse than working amongst the general public.

I'll be teaching English, which I'm pretty damned sure I can teach without having to bring up religion.

Back to the original question...

I think you might be adding a lot of workload beyond simply divising hooks and relationships between them. Fae powers come back angry and go after a substantial portion of society. Demons promoting chaos, unchecked, in all the towns and cities from Barcelona to Bagdad. Economies collapse. Trade dries up. All those cathedral schools and monasteries and universities supported by the Church (and thier Islamic equivalents) go up in balls of flame. Everyone that can, forts up -- at least for a few decades.

The Code would be (seriously) tested as enforcement stops. Several counterbalancing points are knocked out of whack and deals with demons would HAVE to be struck for survival (at least i the eyes of many). Interference with mundanes? Please. :slight_smile:

One scenario that I would find entirely plausible would be a demon whacking the local priest and then blaming the nearby covenant. The local populace can "obviously" see that the sudden loss of thier protection is all the covenants fault and overwhelms the defenses and the demon would help. In fact, I can see demons actively organizing to wipe out the Order sinces they would be the only humans (or part-humans) that have any real chance of checking thier powers. And I can see this happening over and over and over across Europe.

Frankly, I'm having a hard time envsioning a scenario where the Order survives in any worthwhile way. And certainly no time for any surviving member of the order to do research on new methods for protecting a populace to feed thier covenant.

It would be an awful, awful amount of work to run a game where the event of the Divine suddenly vanishing happened. Even if it happened previous to the start date for the saga, finding plausible new power balances that allow magi to have time and resources to study would be, in my opinion, a herculean task.

An example might be developed from your own life. Let us suppose that there was some disaster that took a third of the populace (in the initial event and follow-on health and crime related effects) and made trade in any capacity extremely hazardous. Someone finds out that you are a Really Smart Guy (tm). Do you think they would continue to feed you while you studies the finer aspects of Truth and Justice when there is survival work to do? I doubt it.

All in all, I think you would find the background power balancing and scenario construction that allows for proactive advancement would just prove overwhelming except for a covenant on the furthest fringes of civilization and even then it would be a tremendous amount of work.

If you like running disaster stories and disaster-recovery stories, I would suggest running a few smaller scale efforts first so you get a handle on how the game works before you rewrite the game.

Just my opinion.


Well, that pretty much sums up the entire game balance argument!


I just want to clarify, this saga idea is not rooted in atheism. Yeah, I know I have posted a topic on religion and metaphysics: but seriously they are really unconnected.

I really love post apocalyptic genres and a good zombie film. These films inspired the idea and not some issue about religion. I only brought religion in the context of thr saga because you need to have some kind of explanation, even if a vague one to explain the absence of the divine in the saga.

Presumably people who can play characters that are religious can play people who are religious in a horrible situation.

I was looking on the net and it seems that the topic of religion and ars magica is an old bitter one. Which seems odd to me. In my experience most gamers are either vaguely religious, agnostic or atheistic. I have never encountered any serious issues in gaming concerning religion. Of course I have seen two adult men almost assault each other over a disagreement about whether or not the D&D alignment system is ethically coherent :laughing: I am suprised that people get upset over issues of religion and gaming. Most gamers I know are all on the same boat: they wantt o make stories about "heros heroically heroing!" I am so not into heroism :wink:

Anyway, I found that net discussions (fights?) on religion and ArM seem to be a battle between catholics and neo-pagans. That seems bizarre to me, I have never met a real catholic game, nor have I met a pagan gamer. Damn, I have never even known a pagan/wiccan. I guess I am out of touch. :slight_smile:


Well, I was suggesting the saga as a change of pace. I find that in most troupes people tend to make the same characters over and over and the same stories start to arise again and again.

Sure in this saga you are probably not going to get that uber powerful archmge that does outstanding original research. Nor are you going to get that verdi to create the staff of fancy dragon power. But hey, sometimes its fun to play a survival game.

I remember When Dark Sun came out I tried to get people to play it and they were so resistant. They were "what I only get stone weapons and water and shrubbery are treasure?" Some gamers hated dark sun, (no most gamers hated dark sun), thats ok too.

This is not a matter of my not understanding game mechanics, but rather a choice about the kind of story to tell.

As for game balance between the order and the infernal. Well, adjust it as you see fit. But dont forget that magical and fay auras also increase, as do their denizens. Finally, dont forget that age old tendency of "bad guys" not working together. Is it likely that all of the infernal will be working in a coordinated way? not likely, far more likely that they would be in open competition with one another, provide a portion of the necessary checking and balancing.

I think we are actually agreeing a bit more than you realize.

To state it a little more succinctly, it would indeed be a change in pace. A change that would change it into a game that may be good (personally, I always wanted to try a campaign in Dark Sun) but it would so broadly change the setting that it wouldn't be Ars Magica in the same way that Dark Sun wasn't D&D.

Further, and I'm willing to be wrong here, I think that the the amount of work to make the game setting make sense would be a great deal more than you envision. You said yourself that you are going for another advanced degree and, by implication of your chosen subject, are carrying a heavy workload. I'm not saying "don't do it" or "it wont be fun" . Indeed, I think that it would be a very interesting exercise for someone who has the time and, if done well, might be something I might like to play.

Consider the following cases:

Case 1: Disease

In the RAW, a fair number of diseases are caused by demons and one (at least) is caused by the Divine. If the Infernal becomes even just a little more powerful, would disease be more prevalent? If so, how? If not, why not? Now, if the covenant is 3 magi and a staff of 12 servants, maybe not a big deal until they had to go to town for whatever reason. Since towns, mechanically, are less healthy places, would they be even less healthy? If so, how much? If not, why not? And what about the lepers? Can they be healed? Are they healed? Are they all suddenly better? Do they all somehow forgive all the persecution or do they seek revenge. The easy way out here is to situate the centrl covenant somewhere far from any lepers in the first place, I suppose, but that starts limiting choices for the troupe.

Case 2: Old gods

Suddenly, the old gods (Baal, Apollo, et cetera ad nauseum -- herein assumed to be Fae in nature with a rare Magical god) CAN come back. Do they? Lots of persecuted pagans out there. How do they react? Are there "crusades" led by them and the suddenly more powerful entities? How do they relate to the Infernal? Do whole villages start sacrificing chickens, bulls, children, themselves to gain favor? If so, how? If not, why not? What does the common man do to protect themself from the supernatural and preternatural? Do they engage new powers for that protection or do they keep thier head down and hope for those powers to ignore all those (perhaps temporarily) unprotected commoners? Consider especially the motivation -- supported by game mechanics -- that more followers/worshipers/servants equals more power.

Case 3: Finding a level

If all the Divine auras drop at once -- and setting aside the issue of regiones -- how do the other auras change? Do they "pop up" in the spaces vacated by the Divine? Do, for instance, "the docks" where all sorts of petty crimes have been committed suddenly go from Divine 2 during the day and Infernal 2 at night go to Infernal 2 all day long? Or does it take time? And since all auras have some effect, mechanically, on the "personality" of an area and the inhabitants therein, how do they adjust to the sudden change? Or to the gradual one?

Also, if the aura power goes up for the other Realms, how much does it go up? And would the effect be immediate or gradual and why?

As the balance of power shifts, does it shift gently or violently?

Case 4: The Infernal

Since Hell was created by God, what happens to all the residents of Hell? Are they suddenly loosed? If so, then we need to resurrect the great Flambeau archimagus Bruci Campbellis -- talk about the walking dead! If not, then what happened? In a like vein, one might wonder about all the souls that went to Heaven. Can they be called back? Did they just disappear in the even that God disappeared in? May not be critically mportant in the start of the game, but could be a big deal after a bit as characters start dying.

And I'm sure we could both develop even more cases. Again, let me make clear that I don't think it is a bad idea in and of itself. I am, however, saying that the change -- from my perspective -- would be game-changing and require a great deal of thought and work. Even sagas that are done "in system" and with only scant attention to Medieval history require more work than originally envisioned. This would be a much grander thing.

But by all means, please don't let me stop you! Drop me a line when you get there, I just might be interested in playing a Guernicus who is Christian. :slight_smile: