ArM5: Frozen Castle of Cold Hearts (5-8)

Campaign Title: Frozen Castle of Cold Hearts
System: Ars Magica 5th Edition
# of Players: I'd really like 5-8 players, but who knows? If this game gets to four and then sits here collecting dust for weeks, I'll get it started, and if it's explosively popular and somehow quickly acquires more than eight posters interested (which it won't, because there are hardly that many active members on this site) then... Well, I won't actually run this game for more than eight players, because that would just be too much going on at once, but maybe I'll try running two games or something. I'm going for quality over speed, so if you find yourself posting four [strike]minutes[/strike] hours after the eighth guy showed up or something, go ahead and post interest anyway, and if I like you more you might get in.
Deadline: Depends on how quickly this picks up.
Starting Level: Just out of apprenticeship, I guess.
Advancement Rules: All magae get the benefits of Skilled Parens for free. You can also use one of your Virtue points to get it one more time, if you'd like, though that's your choice. Otherwise normal.
Combat Rules: Take your pick. We'll see if scheduling a time to use an instant messenger works for everyone, and if not, we'll just do it by post.
Dice-Rolling Rules: Roll your own, I'll roll mine. Yeah, I know that can get slow. Deal.
Special Rules: I have a couple of solid house-rules. Credit to the ideas behind most of these HRs goes to the "House rule" page on Project Redcap, though I'm not picking them at random; these are all House Rules I use in my own real life games as well.

1)You can change your specialty in a skill every time the skill reaches the next level (not just every time you gain experience in it, sorry folks).

  1. Less of a house rule and more of an interpretation, but if you get an adventure done in a small enough amount of time that you can still do something else productive that season, you can go ahead and do it while still getting Adventure experience, though you won't get experience from both Adventuring and that other thing (so like, you can do labwork, but you won't gain both Adventure AND Exposure experience).

  2. If a magic item targets anything other than itself, its Penetration is quartered when used by somebody without Magic Resistance or a Realm affiliation/alignment (as a rule of thumb, if they gain Warping from living in an aura of 6 or higher, the weapon is penalized by their usage, unless somebody else is giving them Magic Resistance). The intention here is to keep magae from giving grogs the ability to do everything for them, but keeping things like enchanting their swords with Edge of the Razor viable. (The bit about MR is mainly so that, for example, a magus who has their sanctum defended by magical traps doesn't have those traps nullified by another magus or diabolist or somesuch giving their not-Realm-affiliated servant a normally-insufficient amount of MR that would be sufficient with the Penetration quartering).

  3. Flambeau magi can take Puissance in Aquam, Auram, Terram, or any Martial skill instead of Perdo or Ignem if they wish.

  4. Ceremonial casting and Ritual spells require props, which might include stuff like chalk and incense and so on, which don't add to encumbrance and can be assumed to be on your person unless you explicitly state otherwise, but still matter in that if you, for a wild and (for magi) somewhat unrealistic example, get captured, stripped of all your belongings, and shoved into an arena against a magical creature, the vis you harvest from the beast's body by itself won't be enough to cast a Ritual spell for your eventual daring escape.

  5. I'm lowering how much raw vis you can use in a single spell to one fifth of the used Art's scores, rather than double the Art's scores. This limit does not prevent you from using Ritual spells of a level higher than your TeFo, but in such a case you wouldn't be able to use any vis to boost the casting total further.

  6. I reserve the right to prematurely pull characters out of any Twilight that, by the die roll, should last a year or longer, as I see fit. I will almost never listen to requests regarding this, but if it appears there's a high probability that the saga will end while you're in a seven year Twilight, go ahead and get my attention.

  7. The Until duration requires raw vis as a Ritual spell, but need not actually be cast as a Ritual.

  8. Lab activities that don't already use vis can be enhanced with raw vis the same way spell casting totals can, adding +2 to the Lab Total per pawn of vis used. However, you can only use half of your Magic Theory score (rounded down) pawns this way per season.

  9. An InVi base 10 effect can be used for Linked Trigger tracking metaphysical statuses, such as "the true heir to this noble's family and all future true heirs" or "all people in my magical lineage" as minor magical traces.

  10. Creatures get a sort of "Soak" against Might-draining spells equal to 3/5 of their (original) Might score. Also, only house rule here that I don't use in real life (though it is an attempt to experiment based on real-life experiences), I'm tentatively deciding that draining a creature's Might score, while indeed lowering its Magic Resistance and reducing its Might pool, will NOT lower the Penetration of its powers or the Soak it gets against Might-draining effects.

Posting Rate: Once every two days minimum during stories. You aren't technically required to be there for the beginning of a story to participate if you can find a solid reason why and how you got there late, so the "one per two days" requirement does not apply if you aren't participating in a story at the time. Rate is non-negotiable.
Absences: Please, please try your best to let me know before your two-day limit is up. If your departure will only be four days or some similarly small length, it will be easy enough to simply wait for you or assume you're in the background. If you'll be gone long, I'll find a way to remove you from the scene which takes your character out of danger and allows you to easily come back in. If you don't give me notice, your character will be automatically NPC'd, and if your excuse for disappearing isn't any good, the punishment will be that such NPC-dom shall not be revoked until the end of the story, even if you have returned before the story's conclusion. This fate is worse than it sounds, for not only do you not get to participate in that particular adventure any more, but you run the risk of the character having bad things happen to them while you aren't even playing them (and, which you certainly might complain, could potentially have been prevented if I didn't make a tactical error you yourself would have avoided).
Writing Expectations: I'd say you should at least be able to fit a paragraph of non-dialogue words into a fair majority of your posts.
Text Formatting: Uhwhuh? I don't really care too much about this as long as you don't mix in so many fonts and colors and stuff that it's hard to read and I can easily distinguish different things. Like, I've seen some PbPs here where players didn't even use quotation marks for dialogue, and I'll have none of that.
Plot- or Character-Driven: What kind of question is this? Stuff will happen that's not a result of your actions at all, and some of it will be elaborate and drawn-out and you'll have opportunities to step in along many different parts of it. I call that having a realistic world, but if you want to call that a plot, so be it. It's certainly not all pre-planned, and many things in the saga will be affected by your past actions if you choose to take effective actions in stories (which I'd hope you do). How most things go is on you, but there will of course be points where you have opportunities to be tempted to bite off more than you can chew; individual, reasonable mistakes will usually not have too terrible of repercussions, especially if I'm not being obvious about the danger, but consistent or utterly stupid mistakes like your ten years post-Gauntlet magus trying to attack the pagan god that recently destroyed an entire covenant of significantly older magi and not trying to, like, MAYBE grab an Arcane Connection and DEFINITELY run away is pretty much asking to die; I will not show mercy unless it makes the most sense for the situation that mercy would be shown.
Focus: This is going to be a pretty serious and fairly dark game. Frankly politics bore me, so there will be a smaller but existent amount of that, but you will have to deal with low-fantasy stuff as it arises, like a severe loyalty problem among the covenfolk and perhaps resource management should anything tax your resources too heavily. Making too much of a public nuisance out of yourselves will draw a predictable amount of attention to the covenant from Quaesitors, nobles, churchmen, or all of the above. There will also be high-fantasy elements. This isn't an urban adventure, folks; you'll be surrounded by supernatural people and creatures almost all the time, many story hooks will have to do with powerful beings making moves, I intend and hope for powerful displays of magic from you guys. On a note that is obviously completely unrelated to the focus of the game... Hypothetically, how would you guys feel about a saga in which the Order of Hermes was at war with a near-equal opponent? You don't even have to get involved in the fighting if you don't want to, since you'd still feel the repercussions back home in the form of potential law changes, a lot more guests at the covenant, and things of that sort. Just looking for opinions.
Character Types: And this is the part where I lose all the players who have been interested up to now... Well, I'm here to run the saga I want to run, I'll just have to make do. First of all, in case you had any inkling to ask, you must all play practitioners of Hermetic magic in your main magical character slot; I will not accept non-Hermetic characters in that position, be they Gifted Companions, Mythic Companions, high-Might creatures, or anything else, it's just no. For your companions, however, you have loads more freedom. I'm not totally opposed to the idea of letting you play a Gifted hedge magician who is part of the Order in your companion slot if they manage to be a different play experience from your magus, preferably through some advantage such as one of them having the Gentle Gift or one of them being a lab rat while the other is very field-oriented. Of course, unGifted characters of every flavor and variety you can think of that's appropriate to 1220 Mythic Europe are allowed as well, and in fact, I'm even okay with characters with Magic or Faerie might (no Divine or Infernal, because an Infernal companion is way too much of an attention hog and... There really wouldn't be many ways for a Divine being to justify tolerating what happens here, though because I hate painting humans as black and white as I paint the Realms I won't disallow human characters associated with the Divine). Now for the part upon which I have prepared to receive the vested culmination of the hatred all of you shall feel towards my game. I'd prefer all your magi be either female, or male with the transvestite Flaw. This is something that can absolutely be reformed out of the covenant later if you guys want to go through the stories to make it happen, but you are going to an established covenant with a magical upper class composed entirely of extremely misandrist, classist magae. Any magus whose mental gender is the same as his biological gender who goes to join the covenant will almost certainly be treated antagonistically and as a second-class citizen by the magae (though not to the point of, like, throwing them in with the slaves or anything, they still get their four free seasons a year), though I won't actually disallow said character from joining the covenant if you decide that you want to play a character like that. Male companions and grogs, including those that aren't human, are pretty much going to be slaves unless you can give me a really juicy bit about why that's not the case, though it's of course not against the rules for female companions and grogs to be completely not okay with that fact, and resistance from both genders is allowed and honestly encouraged (I mentioned a severe issue of covenfolk loyalty, didn't I?). Covenfolk with Might who are both civil and meaningfully female are given the same rights as human women, with the exception of water nymphs, who don't actually physically reside at the covenant but are treated as the equals of the magae when they visit.
Campaign Description: To be honest? I've been thinking more about what I want the covenant to be like than where it might actually be. You buckets of fun can pick an appropriate Tribunal. I'll open with something hopefully a little more fun than just sitting here saying, "the covenant is ____, and ____..."

The covenant of Gelida Manerium, which you have come as per invitation or indirect recommendation (basically, somebody else who did get an invitation saying "hey, come with!") is on a flat expanse of lush grasslands near a large river. Massive numbers of a few different types of animal, including cows and goats, are herded about the grasslands to graze by groups of men and satyrs under the watchful eyes of a small number of women. The covenant itself is surrounded by what looks like an aurora, effectively a wall of wavy multi-colored light that obscures the view of the covenant itself. Standing outside are some heavily armed and armored guards, who upon recognizing your desire to enter the covenant, pull out a brass pocket mirror, which one of the guards speaks into. Soon, a gap opens in the wall, and you are escorted through.

As you come into the covenant itself, the first thing you encounter are the large, single-room buildings made of sod, where you can assume based on the covenant's reputation that the male slaves are quartered. Past those, you come across many small stone buildings which appear to ring around the entire circumference of the covenant. The guards inform you that these buildings are the homes of the mundane citizens of the covenant. As you near the center of the large covenant, the brilliant white castle at the center-most point begins to come into full focus. Before you reach it, though, you pass through the covenant's bustling business district, where women both human and Magic or Faerie can be seen doing a whole host of things; transporting leather, buying and selling slaves, engaging in their craft, trading goods and bartering services, so on so forth. All the women look surprisingly healthy and well-fed compared to the standards of covenfolk in many covenants, and you see many written documents exchanged and transactions recorded, implying that a significant number of the women are literate.

Clearing the distracting market district, you find yourselves staring at a large and oddly reflective and opaque castle, gleaming with an unnatural whitish sheen. The white color causes it to be a few moments before it becomes apparent that the castle is, in fact, made of ice, which seems not to show any signs of melting despite the hot weather. The castle is surrounded by a moat, though currently the wide drawbridge (also made of ice) is down to allow free entry, and the guard guides you over the sturdy bridge. Within the walls, there is a good deal of activity as well; well-dressed people and several beings associated with nature, especially water nymphs, are enjoying food, fine drinks, and music in formal celebration, and many servants race about the different buildings, tending to the needs of those partaking in the formalities. The hall keep, lavishly decorated in beautiful things and strange religious-seeming symbols, stands in royal splendor, further back from the open gate than most other things, though there appears to be a multi-story pentagonal tower behind the hall keep that none of the servants go near. You can see books and other niceties coming from a series of buildings to the left when facing the keep, while foods and musicians and servants go to and from the buildings on the opposite side.

The scenery, complete with many soldiers in formal ceremonial uniform both guarding the establishment and taking part in the festivities, is not out of line with the covenant's reputation and the fact that they are expecting your arrival on this day. A combination of information contained in the invitation letter and the covenant's own reputation gives you a bit of an idea what to expect from this place. The covenant is extremely well-known for the lack of rights granted to non-transvestite men, to the point that over 95% of the covenant's male population are literally slaves, and this treatment is extended to many enslaved Faerie and Magic creatures in the covenant, primarily Satyrs. The covenant has some other unusual qualities, such as magae who, despite granting considerable freedoms, rights, and privileges even to common, nonmagical women, also do as much as they can to emulate the lavish and formal lifestyle of the European upper class. Other facts you've heard or read about the covenant include that it makes a significant sum of money even by Hermetic standards manufacturing papyrus and that its primary religion, both in terms of number of followers within the covenant and the influence and wealth of its leaders, is an eclectic pagan faith focused on the worship and dealing with of powerful Magic beings, such as the Magic parts of religions whose pantheons are primarily Faerie and several former humans who underwent apotheosis or similar processes. In terms of resources, the covenant seems well-off, with Hermetic visitors noting the fine library and good financial lee-way with the multiple sources of income, though they also criticize that the covenant only tends to have a small surplus of vis any given year and that the methods of collecting from almost half of those sources are vaguely morally off-putting.

Any other info you think you'd reasonably know, ask about it.

Post interest if you're interested, don't if you aren't. Hope nobody's too put off by some of the premises, but then somebody can always find things to be offended about. Anyway, happy gaming.

I am interested.
I don't really get why the whole gender thing is suppose to bring any kind of hatred, I can see It bringing interesting stories. The slavery is going to bring more issues if discovered by the outside world in my opinion.

I don't usually play magus that focus primarily on combat, i'm much more interested in other application of magic ranging from information gathering (although I don't find mentem users really interesting to play I prefer other intelligo specialists), to spirits and ghost interaction (Titanoi, leadworker...) and illusion or misdirection in a trickster way... I almost always prefer to solve things with wit, investigation, negotiation, misdirection etc. than direct combat when possible. So If you expect lots of combat in your saga please tell me beforehand.

I suggest Theban tribunal as It would fit nicely a high fantasy, pagan tolerant context.

As you might have noticed, English is not my native language, so I would prefer pBp than instant messaging so I have a bit more time to write my message, I hope this isn't a problem.

How much combat there will be is, almost entirely, decided by you guys. I tend to present issues that don't inherently limit you guys' options as players in how to deal with them. So in other words, whether the game is extremely high-combat or whether you all collectively only get into three or four meaningful battles throughout the whole saga (meaningful meaning I might occasionally also throw in something your shield grogs can easily repel just to set the scene for a story) is mostly going to be determined by your own choices. Do you want to try to come to a peaceful agreement with the angered dragon? Could you perhaps use magic or even just mundane strongly-scented things to hurt the noses of the magical wolves harrying the covenant's herds? If you want the Faerie giant's books that he stole from another Hermetic magus a century ago, can you use your Intellego to find a way to sneak in instead of walking up and killing him? Stuff like that. How much or how little you fight is up to you; I just set the scene, remember the rules, and roll any opposed dice.

Theban, huh? Heh, I almost want to avoid it, just because I was hoping to tell a few stories about the Church getting fussy due to the whole women's superiority and possibly-converted-Christians being enslaved issues. But then, it only really makes sense for this covenant lifestyle to work if some people in the area can actually accept things working that way, so maybe Thebes is actually good. I'll look into it more.

As for the gender thing bringing hatred, well, this actually doesn't seem to be the case too often on these boards, but I'm very conditioned to expect other people to get really easily offended by the subject matter of roleplaying settings that aren't "everybody is in happy wonderful equality land, and if they aren't the entire plot must focus around directly opposing the injustice because we can't in any way let setting adversity stand!" In hindsight, maybe I've just been cursed with picky oversensitive players, but whatever.

Don't worry about the English thing. When I said "instant messenger," that wasn't for the whole game, I just meant that we might use those for combats if you guys want, which you probably won't have to worry about getting involved in much since you're interested in a low-combat saga (as, in fact, I am as well, though I won't take the combat choice away from the other players).

Plucks out an eye and throws it against the screen...

love the gender thing

Color me interested. I think my concept will revolve around flexibility in some form.

I'm not sure stretching techniques were very advanced in the middle ages... Oh! You mean magically. Alrighty then.

I'll throw my hat into the ring.

I'm curious about the gender issue - I'm interested to see what you're planning to do with it, and where it'll go (especially with the PCs being magae from outside the covenant with - potentially - very different views). May I ask what you had in mind on that front? Are you looking for a medieval role-reversal type thing, or are you looking to exploit the tension inherent in the covenant being drastically different from the typical social mores of the time?

For concept, I'd be looking at a maga who's very interested in the sharing, and propagation of hermetic knowledge. Happy to write, happier to read, and eager to trade, share, and seek for new magics. If I had to peg a magical specialty, then...Mentem, Auram or Terram? I'm not sure. Relatively undecided on that front.

A number of things. The latter is probably the biggest, as along with the covenant's partially paganism-fueled refusal to free Christian slaves, it will cause some church tension. The role reversal is more of an indirect in-character benefit than an out-of-character decision invoked to receive said benefit, but it does give all the women of the covenant, some of whom find many of the actions of the ruling magi unappealing, a vested interest in making sure the covenant stays afloat, since they are almost guaranteed to live significantly worse lives anywhere else, even in other covenants where men and women are legally considered equal.

I have a few other reasons, but I'll let you figure those out for yourself over the course of the saga.

chuckle reverse Gor, huh?

I will throw my hat into the ring. I would suggest Greater Alps or perhaps Hibernia. Both can handle the high fantasy part. Both have their querks

Alps would be cool.

Concept is forming. I'm thinking about doing something with ice and a lesser immunity to emotions (not sure about pointed ears yet)
Is 'cold' a minor or a major immunity?

Hope you don't mind having an NPC counterpart...

... Or better yet parens, but that might conflict with everyone's "new to the covenant" vibe.

Immunity to Cold would be Major, as it is both common and potentially deadly.

Actually, I do.
I''ll try to cook up something else.

Yeah, the rest of the covenant's older magae have undecided themes so I can make them after your characters are finished and avoid you guys suffering through needing to limit concepts to stay unique, but the whole theme the covenant currently has hinges on one of the current magae, who is intimately tied to cold and ice.

Thought again. I'll play the lady with the frozen heart if I may. Probably a magical version rather than a fairie version though.

Now that I've figured out how to avoid all the drug ads, I can finally play again here! This sounds interesting - all the potential conflict from the different norms. I'm batting around a few ideas in my head. I have to see which one seems to fit best as they gel.

I'll toss in the Levant. Because there's nothing remarkable about yet more cold and ice way up in the north or in the mountains. But the legendary oasis and castle of ice amidst searing desert sands, that's unique.

... This is such a beautiful image, but it conflicts with how the covenant derives income... And, for that matter, the presence of satyrs and water nymphs, which are both culturally inappropriate and way outside their regional comfort zone...

Ah, screw it, this castle practically bleeds conflict, and we've got magic anyway. I'll entertain the idea of the Faeries being hilariously displaced and the covenant using technologically-impossible irrigation techniques to make this work if we end up going Levant.

The Levant has other inconveniences too though. Low Order presence, lower Church presence for that matter, and a bunch of annoying hedge wizards who will get into conflict with the covenant because it's Hermetic rather than because of its abnormalities. For that matter, how prolific would the papyrus trade be in the Levant? I do at least need the covenant to be consistent with the world in which it exists even though it's internally wacky.

Id be game for a Verditus if you have the space.


You get a near-equal enemy already designed for you. Of course, if you already have that planned, you can have a second such enemy for triangular fun.

The satyrs and water nymphs here might be jinn, who just look like satyrs and nymphs because that's what magi expect. Or maybe they've been here a long time but dormant. After all, this area had been occupied by Greeks and Romans for 1000 years!

Oases can be very big places, with any kind of agriculture you want, from wheat to dates to cows to oranges, enough to plant a small city. So you're not limited to papyrus. And if you have a temperature gradient caused by the ice castle, you are even less limited, able to raise apples (but not potatoes :slight_smile: and such closer to the castle, and orange out by the edge.

There might be less Order presence than the Greater Alps, but it's probably more turbulent. (Hibernia is pretty turbulent too.)

As for the sahirs, yeah, they have a problem with Hermetic wizards, but for all that they claim equality, Islamic society is every bit as patriarchal as Christian, though often not expressed in the same ways. Magi might be a problem, but this covenant is an outrageous display of arrogance and disrespect.

Of course, we don't have new Tribunal book. :frowning: