ArM5: House Loyalty -- (FULL)

Campaign Title : House Loyalty

System : Ars Magica 5th Edition (some House Rules)

Number of Players : 2-4

Deadline : Two weeks from now.

Starting Level : Right after Gauntlet

Advancement Rules : As per Core, for the most part.

Combat Rules : How you'll be handling combat.

Dice-Rolling Rules : To be determined by the troupe.

Special Rules : A few House Rules apply, the most significant is about the writing and copying of books on Hermetic Magic (see next post).

Posting Rate : Players should be able to post 2-5 times a week.

Absences : The SG will take control of the characters of absent players. Repeat offenders will see their characters pushed to the sidelines and eventually go away.

Writing Expectations : I try to use clear and accessible language, with occasional flights of fancy. I expect something similar from my players. The written medium has its limits, be aware of this and be patient with others.

Text Formatting : Text should be reasonably easy to read. Out-of-character information should be clearly labelled as such (OOC : This is the way I usually do this.)

Plot- or Character-Driven : Mostly character-driven. Story flaws will be enforced. A few long-term plots (more like themes) will be introduced by the SG.

Focus : Choices. Survival or growth? Cooperation or competition? Cohabitation or conflict? Chaos or order?

Character Types : Single-house covenant, to be selected by the players. No Merinita or Mercere magi.

Campaign Description :

A relatively low resource saga. A groups of newly-Gauntleted magi form a single-House covenant under the sponsorship of their House.

The players will to agree on the House they will be part of, as well as the region of Mythic Europe where their covenant will be located. The covenant is in a set of caves in the cliffs above a river.

A fragmented Order!

The Order of Hermes is threatened by its greatest enemy ever: itself. For the last few decades, things have been uneasy between the Houses, as their diverging priorities has led them in different directions. Many magi are suspicious and jealous of their brethren form other Houses. They keep their secrets close, for knowledge is power.

Sources of raw vis are becoming harder to find throughout Mythic Europe, so they are guarded jealously and smaller sources are more valuable than in the early history of the Order. This forces magi to seek out places where vis can be found, even when such locations are less than ideal, so that they can secure them.

In this context, the formation of single-House covenants is becoming more frequent, as their elders provide them support so that their House can secure those few vis sources that are found, and to help promote their House’s goals and interests in an area. A few covenants have grown larger, but more and more, new covenants are being established in regions that hide their presence from mundanes.

Roughly twenty years ago, House Merinita disappeared. Some of their magi gathered their belongings and left. Others simply vanished. Rumors have it that some were found dead, brutally murdered in their sanctum and their belongings ransacked. The domus magnus of House Merinita, Irencilla is simply gone. No one know what really happened, although many theories exist.

Tribunals are becoming harder to run, but are still mostly operational. There are rumors that there the number of Mercere magi is declining, but the redcap network is still strong.

House Rules


Rounding : Whenever the rules don't specify how the result of a division should be rounded, all fractions are rounded down. For example, a Fatigue-less spontaneous casting total of 4.8 will be rounded down to 4. For xp gained, you can track fractions on your character sheet instead of dropping them completely (so a magus with an affinity gaining 1 xp should note 1.5 xp on his character sheet.)

Character Creation

House : Starting magi cannot be Merinita or Mercere.

Sourcebooks : Starting characters must be built using only the 5th Edition core rules. That includes spells selection, although a few (1-2) spells may come from other sourcebooks, or custom-designed, may be allowed at the storyguide's discretion. The material presented in the Houses of Hermes trio of books (True Lineages, Societates and Mystery Cults) can be used as an inspiration for background, but the more mechanical aspects (virtues, flaws, spells, etc.) will not be used unless specifically allowed.

Area Lore : Every character must start play with at a score of 1 in an Area Lore, representing the environment in which he lived. This may be from childhood experience, linked to the covenant where he was apprenticed, the place where he worked, etc.


Area Lore Mutability : The knowledge of a specific area where a character lives can be slowly transformed into knowledge of a new area when he moves. For every year that a character spends in a new environment, he can transfer 5 xp from an Area Lore that he already had into another Area Lore. This has no impact on the amount of experience the character earns during the year. This is optional and at the choice of the player, but is subject to troupe approval.

Profession: Scribe : Includes all 3 aspects of book construction (scribing, illumination and bookbinding).

Hermetic Magic

Penetration : Penetration can be negative. This does not prevent the effect from affecting a mundane creature, but any form of magic resistance will block it, even if it is 0.

Requisites : There is no need for a requisite to cover the form of a talisman when the magus is touching it. So a magus with a sword talisman who casts Seven-League Stride does not need to include a Terram requisite to bring it along. The same is true for a familiar who is of small size (-3 or less) in its natural shape (i.e. not because of a power or spell).


Talisman : A talisman is considered to be part of the magus when he is touching it. As a result, a shapechanging magus can transform his talisman along with himself. A magus with the Bjornaer, Shapeshifter or Skinchanger virtue can do this automatically. A magus using a spell does not need to add a requisite for the Form(s) of the talisman. However, when the talisman is transformed that way, the magus cannot use its attunements, nor activate any effect enchanted into it.

Installing a lab : Requires having a Gift opened to Hermetic Magic.


Aegis of the Hearth :

  • Needs to penetrate in order to prevent a creature from entering the Aegis. It still penalizes the powers of a creature able to enter it.
  • Does not blow down Parma Magica, or suppress an active power or spell entering it.
  • If the Aegis is stronger than the level of an effect from an enchanted item foreign to the Aegis, the effect fails to activate. The level of effect excludes all enchantment modifications, except for those for Penetration. So a wand enchanted with a Pilum of Fire (lvl 20), usable 12 times a day (+4 lvl) with +10 Penetration (+5 lvl) is considered to have an effect level of 25. So it would work within a level 25 Aegis, but fails to activate in a stronger Aegis.
  • A creature or enchanted item which was present within the boundary when the Aegis is cast is not expelled or penalized by that casting of the Aegis.

Long-Term Events

Books on Hermetic Magic : Writing and copying books on the Hermetic Arts, Magic Theory, Finesse, Parma Magica and Penetration require having a Gift opened to Hermetic magic. The books themselves are slightly magical and can be improved by infusing them with raw vis.

  • Source Quality = Author’s Communication + (bonus for lowered Level) + (modifier for craftsmanship) + (modifier for raw vis infusion)

The original writer can adjust the Level of a Summa to increase its Quality, as per the core rules (ArM5 p.165).

A skilled craftsman adds half his score in Profession: Scribe (rounded down) to the Quality of the book. A mundane scribe working with the magus can be used, but his score is considered 2 points lower.

Vis is usually infused into a book on Hermetic Magic to improve their quality. A book on an Art must use vis from that Art, while any vis can be used for books on Magic Theory, Finesse, Parma Magica and Penetration. The first pawn of raw vis simply allows it to manifest its full Quality; without it the book suffers -3 to its Quality. A second pawn increases the book’s Quality by 2, without negative effect to the book. A third pawn increases the book’s Quality by 2 again, but such a book usually crumbles to dust (or suffer some other mishap) if it ever exposed to a non-magical aura. The vis can be infused into the book at the same time as it is being crafted, or at a later time by spending a season doing so. This does not requires the use of a laboratory, but is subject to the seasonal limit for vis use (ArM5 p.94).

I seems promising and apparently simple enough that it's not more than I can chew.

I don't have strong preferences on House choice, I'd rather avoid Bjornaer (played twice recently) and Criamon but It's a not a deal breaker.

Cliff caves yells "skinchanger: bird" to me. That does not prevent any house, but jerbitons in a cliff sound weird. For diversity of concepts, exmiscellanea is the broadest. I would vote for exmisc, or tytalus facing a new challenge and go somewhere in novgorod or the like.

Note that how much relationship the covenant has with mundanes will be up to the troupe, since the covenant will be in a regio. All I am setting is that the regio is in caves on the cliffs along a river. Where exactly will be up to all of you, and the choice will determine the amount of mundane stuff happening.

So the location could be almost anywhere: in a town, near a monastery, along a trade route or completely isolated.

As for the starting year, that is also up to the troupe. So long as it doesn't contradict the broad historical facts that House Merinita has disappeared, I can make it work. :slight_smile:

I will give it a try. My initial thought is Tremere ( the ultimate in cooperation House) and in the same vein I would put Tyatlus last as I could just see them tearing everything apart given the chance. I will go with whatever is chosen.

Sounds interesting! I would agree with Jebrick that Tytalus seems an odd fit. Xavi's point about Ex Miscellanea providing for a lot of diversity within one House is a good one. Also, I could see Ex Miscellanea gathering to protect themselves from all those old, militant houses. I could certainly see Flambeau or Tremere working together this way well, though Tremere might well hole up in their tribunal, which provides them a lot of space and safety, so it might not be as fitting.

I see ExMisc as being more loyal to their tradition than to the Order( if push comes to shove) It would be the most diverse. I would not do Criamon as they would be a big lump of inaction :slight_smile: unless everyone is on the Path of Strife :crazy_face:
For me:

  1. Tremere
  2. Ex Misc
  3. Verditius - Because what could go wrong

Note that Ex Miscellanea would probably be plagued by the same problem as the Order at large, namely that each tradition would tend to clump together and exclude others from their covenants.

As for Tytalus, they could face the Ultimate Challege (TM): cooperate! :wink:

Now, thinking about it, even the "caves in a cliff along a river" is negociable. Being in a regio isn't. I would prefer an underground one, but that's just me. So if you come up with a cool concept I will be open to it.

Hey there, I'd be interested in taking a slot.

Tremere was my first thought as I wanted to play a strict but positive character, and it's simple to understand the loyalty to that particular House, moreso than any other. Also because I coincidentally started building a Tremere character sheet a few days ago, so it would be a perfect testing field.

Now that said, why not Guernicus? I don't have much to make that pitch better, but they also seem like the strict kind with plenty of opportunities to test the characters' loyalties as they enforce the Code.

So far I see the following poeple interested: Bitter, Xavi, jebrick, callen and Gerard.

That makes 5 potential players, which is 1 more than I was looking for, but I can live with that. Let's call it full for now.

Keep talking about houses and theme for the saga. Does someone have a suggestion for a better name for the saga?

I genuinely like the name you chose.

Bjornaer - They definitely would tend to work together. I do think this would pigeon-hole us more, though.
Bonisagus - They could definitely work together, as they already do. There can be a lot of diversity of concepts here since their Virtue isn't very defining.
Criamon - Sure, they do tend to make clutches, but I would think they could get so wrapped up in the Enigma together than it wouldn't be as fun in the setting.
Ex Miscellanea - While they wouldn't band together out of loyalty, the whole point of the House is the lesser groups banding together in the face of greater opponents. It would also provide a lot of diversity while still being in the same House.
Flambeau - They could certainly work together well. Without HoH:S variants, though, there would be a lot of convergence of character types.
Guernicas - I'm just not sure what would happen with them.
Jerbiton - While they could certainly work together well and there would be a diversity of types available, I'm not sure this would be how they would react. I expect they might move into the cities more and become more scattered rather than holing up in different spots.
Mercere - X
Merinita - X
Tremere - They'd clearly be quite good at this and would perhaps enjoy doing it even.
Tytalus - They seem the least likely to do this to me, as that seems to be going against the philosophy of challenging oneself.
Verditius - I would think they could work together, but you do end up with competition issues and Hubris. Also, this house seems like it would pigeon-hole us like Bjornaer.

Personal feelings about the possibilities:
Bjornaer - I'd worry about character niches and diversity. Plus, if we're avoiding HoH stuff, why choose a Mystery Cult?
Bonisagus - I think this would be a good one for the flexibility allowed.
Criamon - I think we might be bored. I'd worry about character niches and diversity. Plus, if we're avoiding HoH stuff, why choose a Mystery Cult?
Ex Miscellanea - This is my top choice because of the diversity available and the feeling like all the houses are the bad guys.
Flambeau - I think this would be a good one, though I worry about similarity and niches without HoH:S.
Guernicas - I'm not so sure about this one at all with the lack of cohesiveness in the Order.
Jerbiton - I'd be OK with it, but I don't think it's as suited to this.
Tremere - I'd really prefer not. This is the go-to House for single-House sagas in my experience, and this seems like an opportunity for something different than normal. Also, I feel like they would be great boogie-men in the setting with the resources and cohesiveness they've got.
Tytalus - I don't like philosophical clash.
Verditius - I'd worry about character niches and diversity. Plus, if we're avoiding HoH stuff, why choose a Mystery Cult?

I think this would put my preferences as:

  1. Ex Miscellanea
  2. Flambeau
  3. Bonisagus
  4. Jerbiton
  5. Tremere

But, with all that said, I'm also pretty flexible.

I would say that Verditius could be every bit as diverse as ExMisc but the Hubris would make for some tension. But since the mysteries are in the HoH books that is really out. Sounds like ExMisc is a general favorite.

Ya, that's my big reason for avoiding all the Mystery Cults. By their nature they work closely together in many ways. But Mysteries without Mysteries doesn't thrill me.

Thinking about Guernicas, we should consider what we want to do. Maybe we want to rebuild the Order to what it was, and maybe something like Guernicas or Bonisagus would make a lot of sense for that.

That and Tremere I would say. Two seem lean Tremere, while two more toward Ex Misc. Bitter will be happy since most of us seem to lean away from Bjornaer and Criamon.

I added some emphasis in bold. You don't have access to the goodies from the HoH books right out of Gauntlet, but that doesn't mean it cannot be introduced afterward. It might, or might not, depending on the specific bits and pieces being sought.

I appreciate that. I just didn't want to go and plan a bunch of characters all based around mechanical aspects of those books.

I'm flexible and if allowed to stay, I'll go with whatever House others might want to try. My personal vote is on Tremere, as noted, but I'm not against trying to play with Ex Misc.

Let's talk about the top choices:

I don’t have anything against Tremere, but full Tremere covenant isn’t really something unusual, It won't be such a defining feature of the saga. We're losing magical focus but appart from that they can be rather diverse.

Ex Miscellanea is only as broad as the defining virtues from the HoH that are "specifically" allowed, because almost every tradition has a specific virtues from the book, that would rule out :

  • Beast masters (Summon animal)
  • Hermetic Haruspexes (Divination and augury)
  • Karaites (holy magic)
  • Tempestria (Whistle Up the Wind)
  • Witches of thessaly (summoning)
  • Columbae (Warding)
  • Donatores (Banishing)
  • Cult of Orpheus (Sanguine Humor's Blessing)
  • Pharmacopeians (Mythic Herbalisms, root cutter)
  • Pralix lineage (Comprehend magic)
  • Rutic magi (Craft Magic, spell foci)
  • Hermetic sahir (Sihr)
  • Seirenes (Siren song)

So keeping only core major virtues that would qualify, that leaves us with : Entrancement, Greater immunity, Greater purifying touch, Shapeshifter, Strong faery blood, Ghostly warder, Giant blood, guardian angel, true faith, way of the land, Magister in artibus.

This can work, but unlike mystery cults, you don't gain the virtues after character creation, they're the entry ticket so It's all about what's allowed at creation.

Tytalus can thematically work as a team with the same goals competing against each over to find the best method. Think competing research labs.

Full Verditius covenant is probably a challenge specially in a low ressources environnement.

Bonisagus could work as easily as the Tremere with a different flavor, less self-centered maybe ?

Guernicus are an option if finding the disappearing Merenita and Order cohesion is a main story goal (intelligo stuff), also the environnement are caves (Terrae magus) and trying to resolve legal issues between conflicting convenant about virtus (advocate) and enforcing the tribunal verdict (HOplite) are all meaningfull choices.

Flambeau are working fine too, maybe we could work with Arthur to open more starting virtues (Warrior magical focus, puissant finess , cautious with (finesse)) they're not HoH:S specific and don't bring any complication rule-wise contrary to ExMiscellanea stuff. That would probably lead us to a more combat driven way of resolving conflict though.

Jerbiton makes sense If we want to put an emphasis on interaction with mundane, I don't really see art being a major focus here.

For those who are interested in political stories, the House works well even if not all players are interested in that, because you have the Trianoma tradition alongside the more traditional research Bonisagi.

So maybe we should focus on this more? Are we aiming more for survival? For bringing back the rule of law (maybe good for Guernicus/Bonisagus)? For fracturing the Order further for our House to be independent (maybe good for Tremere)? Etc.