Ars Magica 5th Edition: 1st Crusade

Game Title: 1st Crusade
RPG System: Ars Magica 5th Edition
Game Moderator: Heaven's Thunder Hammer
Game Description (1 sentence): The Prince of Nothing series converted to Ars Magica.

Note, the write up begins on the 7th post. Initially this was a post for game ideas, and then I got the idea to write this up for the heck of it. This post just has the basic setup here.

So, my southern France game is now a once a month affair, so I need a second fascinating campaign concept (to me at least, anyway). A player asked about a crusade game, and I got thinking about doing a Saga starting in the 1st Crusade.

This is a single player + SG game, so lots that we don't need to worry about, while at the same time making sure it goes in a way we're both interested in exploring.

Then I started thinking about one my favorite fantasy series that was heavily based on the 1st Crusade, the Prince of Nothing Series.

For quick reference, the first trilogy of Prince of Nothing series is an epic fantasy grimdark analogue to the first crusade. Competing wizard factions, an evil No-God served by his Unholy Consult trying to destroy the world, and a fascinating deep dive into the crossovers of logic and human psychology. The author has a PhD in Philosophy, and it shows.

While I don't need to literally copy the series in Ars Magica's Mythic Europe, a big part of the book was the grind of the crusade as well as changing it's course from how it would have gone. (So naturally, piles of mundane interference on the sly and becoming ahistorical.)

The PC is a Tytalus with the Gentle Gift who is participating in his master's schemes... He is going under his mundane identity as the heir of a Viscount back in France, while hiding his secret identity as a Magus to the nobility... While also travelling with the Magi on the Crusade and hiding from them that he is a Noble.

(From what I've seen in the Code of Hermes, nothing says a Magus is required to disclose his mundane background.)

Once there, as a Magus, he can help influence the Tribunal to be an appropriately exciting place for House Tytalus to flower anew after the bruising schism war and recent purge in the last century.

I like the idea of the Unholy Consult as a hidden enemy, but I struggle with the idea of an analogous Mythic Europe concept. (In essence, an ancient group of aliens aided by subservient human mages.) I feel like simple Diabolists would be too cliché and boring.

Any thoughts on that, or any other possible ideas to use in a First Crusade Campaign?

Other ideas include the introducting of the much more openly practicing Sahir's as well as Intra-Crusade politics and Crusader-Byzantine intrigues.

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Oh, I liked that book series. I need to re-read it.
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I would actually have made the Unholy Consult the demon-princes, or "ascended" (descended?) diabolists, but I take it you don't want this option. One alternative is to switch them for the Dream Witches. Make them highly-warped witches, perhaps partly pre-Hermetic, which reside in dreams but can possess people or "step out of them" after driving them mad with lack of sleep or somesuch. This will allow to make each quite-unique and have them mostly act as whispers in NPCs ears, and be very hard to track down and confront, but with the ability to manifest and act in the real world as needed.

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@YR7 and @Jetpack thank you both for the advice. I can see maybe some kind of Dream Witch could be a lackey or working with some kind of powerful Unseelie fae, or perhaps an Old God of Canaans to unleash some kind of fiendish plot. I'll look up Antagonists and Dies Irae maybe for some end game ideas.

I do have a copy of Jeruselam by Night, though I never got around to reading it much, so I'll give it a whirl.

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If you don't mind looking at other games for inspiration, check out this link:

https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/12cj_VAGqdYR53rmPtZXWidzyPQcGCtoC?usp=sharing

There are two files there, one for the Gods of the Arabs, before islam, and one for the Canaanite Gods. While they are geared for Scion 1e, they might still be useful with info on those gods.

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@Red-Shadow-Claws thank you for the neat link, I will find ways to use that.

So, right we have started the first session with Kaldas ex Tytalus's graduation ceremony, which involved a strange summoning rite that involved having a epic vision:

(0) The history of the Order is a lie.

(1) There was a 14th house, House Seswatha, destroyed and forgotten since the schism war.

(2)The 14th founder, Seswatha, was a Levantine Greek. The survivor of an ancient Akkadian prophetic summoning Tradition in Syria that strove to save the world for upcoming the Apocalypse, predicted to happen around the year 1000.

Seswatha was afflicted with various dreams and visions in his life, that led him to France and then to the Founder's Gathering in Durenmar in 767. He warned the other Founders of the No-God, a being not of this world, that had fallen from the sky into the wastes of the East, and the No-God's plan to destroy the world.

(3) The only Founder to not laugh at, ignore, or politely listen was Tytalus, whom after battling Guorna the Fetid understood the danger. The two houses were strongly allied in the early years of the Order, and caused many setbacks for the No-God and the unholy Consult.

(3) Seswatha was the oldest of the founders, as he was born around the year 400. He bound a powerful sympathetic Jinn into himself and did not age past 30.

(4) While the Devil wants to corrupt humanity and keep them alive in order to have an endless stream of new souls into Hell... The No-God simply wants everyone and everything to die.

(5) The No-God is served by the Unholy-Consult, a mixed group of Magi and Wizards to whom he opens new and unfettered secrets of the Magic of Death. They can become almost perfect impostors of a person, and perfectly destroy memories.

(6) The PC saw through Seswatha's eyes, each founder in person, including Diedne, in the original gathering of 767.

(7) Seswatha argued with Charlemagne and Jerbiton to destroy The Tree at the End of the World in Northern Germany to stop the machinations of the Unholy Consult in corrupting the Northmen. This partially succeeded, but lead the viking devastation of Christian lands for the next ~250 odd years.

(8) The No-God and Unholy Consult are most often confused with The Devil and Diabolists, but they are not the same. The Church of Christ and the remnants of the Caliphate are unwittingly the No-God's greatest foe.

(9) The Schism war was truly apocalyptic: No woman in the world gave birth in the year 1012, and if they were already pregant had a stillbirth. The Unholy Consult tore holes in reality and much was forgotten. Many fallen "Diedne" covenants are actually fallen House Seswatha covenants, or unknown and forgotten in the middle east.

(10) The machinations of the No-God continue, and using corrupted agents in House Guernicus and other Hermetics, has destroyed almost all mentions of House Seswatha. Surviving records are in Akkadian, the House's secret language. (Historically not rediscovered until 1767.)

(11) Seswatha lives in his descendants - all masters are learn how to enact a ritual that binds them to Seswatha's memories. Over time as their mind accumulates, they witness scenes from Seswatha's life, and up to his apocalyptic battle with, and defeat by, the No-God in 1012.

(12) Tasgilla was not infected by diabolism. She pushed too far to learn about the No-God, and ended up corrupted. She and her followers who were killed were actually not infernalists, but members of the Unholy-Consult.

(13) Only one of Seswatha's followers survived the first apocalypse. Due to magical similarities, he stole the identity of a slain member, Hyperiax, of House Tytalus. (The PC's master.) He now tries to mastermind the 1st Crusade against the machinations and stirrings of the No-God in the East after the first apocalypse.

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Time for an update!

Recall that the Kaldas ex Tytalus, (a “Titanoi” aka Seswatha and Summoner) is also posing as his own fake twin brother, Aubert, the bastard son of the Viscount of Avranches, who is also the Earl of Chester

Aubert is leading his father’s forces on the Crusade as a vassal of Robert Curthose of Normandy. So he has an identity "Kaldas of House Tytalus of the Order of Hermes" and another "Aubert Avranches, bastard son of the Viscount of Avranches/Earl of Chester, vassal of Duke Robert of Normandy."

(1) The PC intervened in the siege of Nikea. Historically, there was a weak tower that the crusaders identified and unsuccessfully assaulted. Kaldas has skill with Perdo, Rego, and Terram, so spontaneously cast a series of spells to weaken the Tower during the assault. A lucky Finesse roll later, it collapsed in such a way that it turned into a ramp for the crusaders to get on the battlements. Some good rolls later, he led his men to take the gate and open it up for the army.

(2) This means the crusader army sacked Nikea way earlier than in history. Because this city is still largely Christian, casualties and atrocities were minimal. As a result however, some of the initial bad blood between the Byzantines and Crusaders is from the Byzantines towards the Crusaders instead of the other way around. Because of the PC's actions, he received personal accolades and gifts from Emperor Alexios.

(2b) - The PC also looted what he thought was a Mosque (he had promised his men much treasure for leading the supposedly suicidal assault and now had to pay up), but turned out to be a recently founded Order of Solomon House of Wisdom/Covenant. (The clue was the group of earth elemental Jinn guarding it.) A heroic fight later, they were defeated.

Because of the PC's Parma Magica, the Vizier's further attempts spells did not work. They promised to surrender, but during a distraction due to a counter-attack by Nicea's garrison, used Solomnic Travel to escape.

Historically (in my Ars Magic canon) because Nikea was not sacked, the Viziers quietly left Nicea and the Order of Hermes was none the wiser. The OoS now has early warning of the Crusaders, and the double injustice not only looting a Mosque, but a House of Wisdom as well.

(3) The crusaders left Nikea just in time to capture the (historical) spies Kilij Arslan sent into the camp and find out about this attack. The PC intervened and with Emperor Alexios's help (as historically, I understand he discussed some strategy with the crusaders) planned an ambush. It went well, but given the mobile horse archer army of Kilij, (maybe a Point of diverge) he avoided a route and still had a (historical) running battle deep into the night with the crusaders.

(4) The PC has a MuCo spell Eyes of the Eagle. Combined with Second Sight, he can see in the dark. He decided to capture Kilij Arslan with his knightly entourage. A good Perception+Awareness roll boosted by two confidence points later for a total of 24, he identified the enemy Sultan. The PC successful led his entourage behind enemy lines and captured Kilij. Overall, this led the the historical rout that Kilij suffered at Nikea.

(5) The PC, wanting to be Emperor Alexios' good graces, and raise his stature in the Crusader army, brought Kilij Arslan to the emperor. I decided the result was Kilij Arslan had to pay tribute, and surrender many parts of Northern, Western, Eastern Anatolia, which is more than the Byzantines historically recovered after the first crusade. And a 10 year truce. As I understand it, the Byzantines regularly had truces with the Caliphate and successor states, and that 10 years was a normal enough length for a truce.

Also, the PC received even more treasure from Alexios, and made a strong impression on him.

(6) Because of this, Kilij Arslan did not raze his the land and poison all the wells and other possible water sources along the crusader routes to the south. So, on the trek through Anatolia, the crusaders did not suffer the historical water supply issues and loss of life and importantly, horses. The PC also has a grog who can Dowse, and summoned a Water Elemental to help find water sources. This also means that:

(7) There was no battle of Dorylaeum. However, the desert of Dorylaeum had an Infernal Aura of 5, inflicted by some ancient battle with the No-God. Nightmares were plenty, bones rose out of the earth, soldiers woke up dead, children and the civilians fell sickly and died.

(8) The PC, using his reputation for storming Nikea and capturing Kilij Arslan, is recruiting amongst the free knights and soldiers in the Crusade. (Historically they there were some of these, but the number is unclear. I’m estimating this number at about 5 to 10%. The PC also made a point of befriending Robert in earlier sessions, and is now befriending Bohemond. (The Societates Agency rules work similarly well for befriending powerful people too.) His plan is to convince them to split the (hopefully a much larger surviving army after Antioch), with one group going from Aleppo to Damascus, and the other following the traditional route.

(9) While Kilij Arslan himself had a truce with Emperor Alexios, this does not mean the Danishmend did. Kilij still made a secret deal with them, similar to history. However, the Danishmen did have to attack without his surviving forces, as he had to observe the truce.

(10) The attack happens at Caeserea instead. I decided that the battle would largely go similarly to Doryleam. The PC is Robert of Normandy's vassal, so was in the vanguard with Bohemand and Robert's forces. The PC also spotted the Danishmend's scouts, and sent a summoned spirit to kill them all. So similar to history, the Danishmend thought the Vanguard was the entire army. They launched a surprise assault from the northern mountains/forest. Things got hairy, the PC uses a LOT of vis to (barely) deflect the initial surprise attack by the Danishmend horse archers. While Robert and Bohemand rallied the troops, he used his (magic animal companion) horse to get help supernaturally faster than leaving it to mundane horses.

At this point I should note the OoH “embassy” travelling with the Crusaders. They are largely posing as an obscure order of monks for those not in the know. For those who do know, they are largely staying out of the way, in the Rearguard. The PC has spent a fair amount of time as a Magus, and avoiding trouble with the lone Quaesitor policing the Hermetic Crusaders. Due to random generation, the crusaders are ~60% house Tytalus, ~30% Flambeau and 10% other Houses. In my Ars Magica canon, the reason they historically did not get more involved is that the Tytali spent most of the time scheming and fighting over who was in charge of whom rather than fighting any battles for the crusaders. (That and secret clashes with the Order of Solomon at some point.)

The random generation also gave four Tytali strange Russian/Norse names, whom I’ve ruled are recent Tytali converts to the Order from the Novgorod tribunal. They speak poor Latin, and do not even have a score of 1 in Order of Hermes Lore or the Code of Hermes. I decided their magic specialty was turning into Giants and using oversized enchanted weapons to cause death and destruction to their enemies. This is important because the PC decided to befriend this group and invite them to travel with “his noble lord brother” in the Vanguard. (Not historical Ars Magica canon! In my historical canon, they died fighting powerful Jinn near Antioch.)

(11) Back to the battle Caesera, the Vanguard moved near the marshy river (similar to Dorylaeum in history) to the south and the Danishmend horse archers couldn’t engage them directly. The situation appeared dire for the vanguard for the three (instead of five) hours it took for reinforcements to come. The 4 Russian Tytali around the point reinforcements came, decided to wade into the fight. They turned into ~40’ tall giants and frightened the Danishmend army, just as the mounted forces led by Godfrey and Raymond decided to charge. I’ve houseruled that giants of that size are fairly effective against mass combat units and a single swipe of their greatswords was like a scythe through wheat.

The result was a massive slaughter and rout of the Danishmend forces. The next session will be dealing with both the Hermetic and Crusader reactions.

Any thoughts on the changes so far are very welcome!

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This is fabulous! One of the great things about ArM, from the point of view of a medieval historian, is the opportunity to play with the what-ifs of history that one would never be able to explore in an academic work.

Thus I really like the way that you're exploring the history in detail while also considering the impacts that the involvement of magi and their ilk would likely have on the events. You've clearly also been doing detailed reading on the period, and thus you're really bringing the period to life. So cool. :slight_smile:

I'm looking forward to seeing what happens next!

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Some updates from the next session of play. There are several more to do, but I wanted to get started on this again:

After the Battle of Caesarea, the PC as Aubert of Avranches approached Robert of Normandy's personal Bishop to ask his advice on how to handle the reaction to the Giants. The bishop asked if the "Giants" were baptized, and upon finding out that they weren't, Aubert asked the Bishop to baptize them. So, the four Russian Tytali decided to accept the baptism and convert to Christianity. Aubert had to sell them on Christianity, and they decided that a God who could die and come back to life was pretty cool. Aubert also looked for Peter the Hermit, but could not find him in time.

Subsequently, in the Council of the Princes the various players of the Crusade tried to make sense of what they witnessed: Four 40' tall giants slaying Turkish horseman with 25' long swords like a farmer with a scythe through wheat made them cautious of anything too extreme. Aubert argued he thought he had hired some Varangian mercenaries that had a bit of magic, and unaware they turned into Giants. This was mostly believed. He also argued that since they had converted Christianity, therefore the magic they used was retroactively blessed by God because of the successful battle.

This caused some stir amongst the Princes of the Crusade. They turned to the papal Legate Bishop Adhemar of Le Puy for advice. He ordered the four Russians to come and answer questions publicly in front them. They soon arrived in their strange garb (mostly bare-chested, covered in tattoos and half dressed in bear furs rather than cloth), again causing a minor stir. Bishop Adhemar questioned their use of magic in Latin: Did they summon Spirits? Did they talk to the dead? Did they consort with demons? Did they use curses?

The Russian wizards answered in broken Latin "no" to all four.

The arrival of Peter the Hermit interrupted the meeting, he had taken an arrow into the arm during the battle interrupted the meeting. He claimed the Giants were descendants of the Nephilim, and were part angel. So in fact, they should be invited to join the Holy Pilgrimage and help them prepare in the coming Apocalypse against Saracen forces in the battle for Jerusalem.

Bishop Adhemar then asked if Russian "Giants" would swear an oath to only fight the enemies of Christianity, which they quite happily did. This ended the debate, and the Princes planned to continue to Antioch.

In the Hermetic camp, Aubert's other identity, Kaldus of House Tytalus faced an emergency Tribunal called by the pilgrimage's lone Quaesitor, Dionatius ex Guernicus. After the 30 odd magi assembled, he began by charging the four Russian magi with a gross breach of Mundane Interference...

... And then Dionatius's head exploded. (NSFW Reference)

The wizard's panicked and began casting defensive spells until the senior Tytali Archmaga, Leto of House Tytalus calmed things down. A quick investigation was organized, but no obvious clues were found by the wizards. After casting various intellego magics, no one had an explanation.

Kaldas however, using his Second Sight, spotted an 'invisible' owl with the head of a man flying away--such beings are spies for the Unholy Consult. Thinking on his feet, Kaldas found the Dionatius's corpse poorly attended. The player made some good rolls to later, sneakily use Dionatius's corpse to Summon his ghost.

Dionatius was not pleased to be summoned, but answered that he had no idea who killed him or how. Mainly that he figured some wizards wanted him dead so they could meddle more freely with Mundanes. Kaldas dismissed Dionatius and then arranged for a Christian burial so that Dionatius's ghost could move on.

Additionally, Kaldas contacted his master, Hyperiax to let him know about what happened. They coordinated logistical needs for the Seige of Antioch, mainly the guarantee for large timber to make another large battering ram.

More to come later!

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This is amazing...You are a very gifted ST to drive a storyline like this! I wish I could be one of your players!!!!

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This is so much fun. The head explosion was a convenient distraction. At some point someone is going to say, "Hold on, weren't we in the middle of a trial?"

You're doing a great job! :slight_smile:

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@LadyAth Thank you for the compliment!

After running this saga for about 16 sessions now, the First Crusade would make an absolutely outstanding pre-written campaign to launch an epic Levant Tribunal Saga. I've read a modest number of medieval history books (on the order of 30-60, from skimmed to fully read), and the history of the First Crusade in my experience is exceptional. Not only is there a fantastic story worthy of a GoT style TV show, there's a vast wealth of historical sources to study, and the academic field has really flowered in the last 20 years with a lot of new research and insights.

@niallchristie, I'm glad you're enjoying the read! Gaming Session logs on this forum seem to be less common (because of the PbP’s I think), but I’m happy to type this up. :smiley:

Some other notes: I regularly use the fate chart for the Mythic Game Master Emulator for some randomness. Over time, since GMing on the regular over 25 years (I'm now in my late 30s) I've found that I have just certain preferences and unconscious decisions for what "should" happen. Using some randomness to make a call literally shakes up what happens. Sometimes using d100s to decide things feels cheap/repetitive... Other times it profoundly changes the game in a wholly new and interesting way. For a quick reference, this link. There will be a couple points where the dice profoundly shifted what I thought would happen, so I will try to note those. (Not in this particular update, however.)

Updates:

Before the army decamped from Caeserea, the Hermetic investigation into Dionatius's murder had a brief powow: The Archmagi present (6 Tytalus, 2 Flambeau, 1 Jerbiton {again, random generation}) had a meeting and concluded what everyone else knew: There was (1) no obvious motive (minus the obvious motive) (2) There was no magical residue leftover from the effect (3) after questioning all the magi, no one had any clue (3) without other Quaesitors present, the investigation would be stalled until Quaesitors could be contacted, which means years away from this point if it is even ever investigated again given that... (4) there are no Redcaps.

ANTIOCH!

The travel to Antioch largely went largely without comment, just like in history. On the Hermetic side, Kaldas continued to build relationships within the Hermetic camp - in particular the Russian Tytali felt that they'd been lied to by the other members of the Order, who had promised them epic battles. Instead, they'd spent most of the crusade sitting in the back of the baggage train listening to the other Tytali argue nonstop. They decamped from the OoH contingent and instead camped with Aubert's followers. In spite of the effects of their Gift, this boosted his internal recruitment efforts. (How many nobles have Varangian mercenaries who turn into Giants descended from Angels, blessed by God to support a holy pilgrimage?)

Another person Kaldas spent time with was Æþelbeorht ex Jerbiton. A chronicler of history, an artist, and a powerful Rego Terram specialist (again, for said art) enough to win a challenge and gain the title of Archmage. (Not that the player has bothered to ask how a Jerbiton became an Archmage.)

Æþelbeorht and his wife Isobela ex Jerbiton are following the pilgrimage to chronicle and record the events and exploits as they happen. Kaldas arranged interviews with his "brother" after battles. Though after the Guile roll difficulties increased, the player became more "busy" and would answer questions via letter dictated to Aubert's wife, Velkonia. (His master Hyperiax arranged a marriage with a Greek noble's daughter to act as a cultural guide and translator for Aubert. She knows of the Aubert/Kaldas dual identity/ruse. They had actually married before the Pilgrimage started.)

As Aubert, however, he had been making use of his time traveling with Robert of Normandy, Bohemond of Taranto, and Tancred. We have been using slightly modified Agent rules from Societates to model the resistance of powerful figures to their social inferiors trying to befriend them. Aubert has been steadily working away to befriend all three figures.

However, other events far away conspired against the Crusaders. The use of obvious magic in Caesarea did not go unnoticed by the Sahir's in the area. They warned Antioch of the incoming army, not to mention the first Sahir's attacked in Nikea who fled to Baghdad. The Sahir's of Iconium and Heraclea quietly stayed out of the Crusader's way, so they were not detected by the Order of Hermes. However, the Suhar/Order of Solomon as a whole is aware of not only a Frankish army, but one that employs their own magic users in battle.

Not to mention, the agents of the Unholy Consult serving the No-God who prefer lots of death.

Upon arrival in Antioch in early August (instead of the historical early October) Aubert went on a scouting mission with his men and found the city quite formidable. Not only that, invisible Jinn, seen with his Second Sight, were posted high above the walls keeping a watch on the army.

In the council of the Princes, Raymond argued for an immediate attack. The other leaders balked given the incredible defenses of the city. (40' walls and miles of length wrapped around the city.) Aubert argued that he and his men, along with some recruits to his banner, could assault the walls again. After all, he had had many successes in the past, and it was clear God favored them attacking and not waiting.

An important consideration the Council had however, was that the orchard trees around Antioch were not very large and made poor siege equipment due to being (1) too small and (2) weak wood. (Historical!) The communication with Hyperiax paid off, because Greek merchants/pirates via St. Symeon brought the heavy timber necessary to construct the seige ladders and a battering ram. This would take 2-3 weeks to get ready.

In the mean time, Kaldas had snuck in at night, using vis to enhance subtle Perdo Terram and Perdo Herbam spells to weaken the barbican, metal locks, wooden bar, and wooden gate of Gatehouse of St. Peter. Between being invisible and make some good stealth rolls, he also used Bartameaus, to create some distractions to keep the watching Jinn occupied.

Kaldas did not stop there. He also did the same at the gatehouse of the Antioch Citadel, weakening barbicans and the wooden gates. Networking with Aislinn ex Flambeau, a follower of the school of Vilano as a Rego Terram specailist. Kaldas made an agreement with Aislinn to protect his "brother's" Battering ram via Rego spells in return for a portion for a favor later. (The walls of Antioch had catapults & Ballistae to shoot at seige equipment.)

(Sidenote 1: The book The First Crusade 1096–99: Conquest of the Holy Land by David Nichol on page 50-51 gives a great graphical overview of the layout of the land for the historical Seige of Antioch.)

Near the end of August, the Crusaders made an attack on the Northern Gate of St. Peter at night to disguise their troops from pulling back from their other positions around the city. The player of Kaldas made an amazing roll (30) for the Leadership roll to lead the battering ram attack. Between that, the previous magic use2, and the agreement with Aislinn ex Flambeau, the gate of St. Peter fell to the crusaders in a full frontal assault.

Note 2: The player was so lucky. Seriously, like 6 rolls with 5-10 pawns of vis, in an aura, no botching. Chance of 10-15 botch dice at a time or so. Yes, he used up all of his vis. To the point where he had to borrow vis from Æþelbeorht ex Jerbiton to have some on hand for the assault on Antioch.

Upon breaking in however, his forces faced a considerable amount of Jinn waiting behind the the gate to cause a rout with their mere appearance. However, Kaldus rallied his men successfully to fight them, along with having the Russian magi (not giants just yet) with him to counter the Jinn.

Meanwhile, the majority of the hermetic assault was in fact focused on the Sahir's of Antioch. This only had upsides for Kaldus. Because of the dark he could use the spell Crest of the Earth Wave to clear a path through the mortal army approaching.

With that done, Kaldus rallied his men to take the inner Citadel of Antioch. Again, making a good leadership and athletics roll for his "tip of the spear" unit, they made good speed there.

As GM I had decided that Yağısıyan, Governor of Antioch would have had high confidence in the assault being repulsed, and therefore had the citadel gate to the city lightly defended. With the Hermetic assault on the House of Wisdom, the bound Jinn were recalled to fight them and could not easily pass messages to the citadel. This meant that Aubert's assault on the citadel came as a complete surprise.

The Aubert's player made some okay rolls for the assault, so spent his rook of vis on a (lucky) Rego Corpus effect to target the guards on the wall to rip them off and throw them on the ground. "A divine wind," he told his men, who had no reason to doubt it. They stormed the inner keep, slaying the remaining disorganized defenders. Once deeper inside, they encountered summoned Fire Jinn.

A significant fight ensued in the keep and Aubert and his men resisted the attacks as Kaldas had cast Ward Against Heat & Flame on himself and the men. (Kaldas has a suite of spells that he casts on himself, and his men before major battles or sieges. So far they have not suffered warping, but their armor may get... Strange.)

Aubert and his men broke down the barricade in Yağısıyan's chambers, and he took the Governor and had some order a surrender of the city. Aubert also ordered his flag & colors draped from the Citadel gates to indicate that he had taken it. It was also a priceless opportunity to portion out loot from the Governer's treasury directly to his men and was able to loot Yağısıyan's personal library and all of his correspondence.

Yağısıyan & his family were sent with a detachment of Byzantine troops back to Constantinople to inform them of the successful conquest of Antioch and sending the former Governor as a gift/proof.

A result of the reputation boost for (1) breaking open Antioch, (2) taking the inner citadel, (3) taking Yağısıyan's surrender, and (4) getting choice parts of the loot because of being the "tip of the spear," Aubert in the aftermath recruited successfully from the unattached or "free" lords and other soldiers in the Crusade, along with any remaining Christians of Antioch, now formed a large enough force under his own banner to be recognized as one of the premier leaders of the Crusade. He now heads a force of some 3500 men, including some 300 heavy knights and 200 mounted sergeants. He is now recognized as Junior in the Council of Princes.

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Indeed, this is great fun. Of course, we know that a Seljuk relief force is coming, so that is going to keep our fearless magus and his friends occupied soon.

How are you going to handle the discovery of the Holy Lance? Will it be genuine? Or maybe a magic item planted by one of the Hermetic magi on the expedition? Or to spice things up, an Infernal item placed there to help the crusaders kill more people by the agents of the Unholy Consult?

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The lance is going to come up soon in the next session of play, but the write up is a still quite behind. I'll let it be a surprise for now, but your suggestions gave me some ideas...!

Note as of April: the lance still hasnt come up just yet, I've decided to wait on using it.

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Notes: Baldwin and Tancred did depart to conquer Armenian Cilicia earlier as per original history, Tancred rejoined, Baldwin did not as he still went to Edessa. I will update one of the earlier session notes to account for this.

Also, the lance did not end up coming into play, and i have saved that for later.

Antioch II:

The Crusaders spent the next few weeks in Antioch recovering and planning their next move as much as they also participated in veiled arguments for the direction of the crusade. The surviving Turkish garrison were sold as slaves.

The most elderly Archmage, Leto of House Tytalus went into twilight during the battle with the Jinn and the Order of Solomon. Witness accounts indicate a Final Twilight, so they held a brief funerary rite to honor her contributions to the Pilgrimage.

Because of the quick success in Antioch, and Aubert capturing the citadel, this went much differently than history. General Tatikious, the leader of a small force of ~2,000 light infantry, assumed command of Antioch, as per the Prince's original Oaths to Emperor Alexios. Tatikious reminded them of the plan (somewhat historical it seems, depending on source) that they were to wait until Alexios could arrive with reinforcements and lead them to Jerusalem.

Without the historical casus belli to break their oaths (that Alexios had abandoned them), the Princes did not have the same leverage. However, they did not let that stop them. Bohemond and Raymond argued significantly about who was in charge while they waited, and both wanted to conquer new land for themselves. These intentions were not hidden particularly well. The Emperor's arrival would complicate this.

Bohemond & Tancred in a secret meeting with Aubert, had a proposal: Over the time they had become friends and shared the similar desire for new land holdings. They shared a similar Franko-Norman heritage and spoke the same languages. With Aubert becoming the leader of his own "nation" and giving leadership to the lesser lords: They would support splitting the Crusade, they and supporters would go east to Aleppo, then go south and conquer towns/fortresses to Homs, and then rejoin the Crusade.

(Map of OTL, except they mostly didn't keep what the territory the crusade traversed through)

Now, at this point I have been remiss in my storytelling, as part of it has been that Kaldas has recurring dreams of either Seswatha's past, or the calls through his dreams of his mother, a Ifrit or Marid with deep blue skin. Many of these dreams and visions have been about Baalbek: where in the Regio of of the original Heliopolis, the Domus Magnus of House Seswatha existed until its destruction in the Apocalypse of the Schism War. The relationship between Kaldas's mother and House Seswatha is still as yet undetermined.

So, Bohemond proposed he would rule Aleppo, Tancred would take Shayzar, and Aubert would get Homs. However, because of his dreams, Aubert made the plan bigger: They should go through the Orentes valley to Baalbek, and then march on to assault Damascus. Aubert would take those two cities as his lands, and leave Homs to either of them.

Yes, it would be risky, but Aubert alluded to his "brother" Kaldas, and the other wizards in the campaign could mitigate risks. Bohemond reluctantly agreed - saying “it depended on their degree of success" to see if they could afford to march on Damascus. Both alluding that Aubert must continue his fantastic winning streak and ask more favors of his "brother" Kaldas. Aubert agreed.

As part of the intrigue, in the next meeting of the Council of Princes, Bohemond brought forth evidence in the form of a brutally beaten captured Turkish "spy" who said two smaller armies would soon converge on Antioch, one from the southern coast, and one from Aleppo. Aubert made the successful argument to avoid a "stab in the back," that the Crusade needed to split into two groups to avoid letting one of the armies besiege the recently captured Antioch.

The princes suddenly, very uncharacteristically, voted quite amicably to split the forces into two groups of about 25000. Raymond would lead Hugh, Godfrey and Stephen's armies to proceed south to confront the other army. Bohemond would lead Aubert and the two Robert's to confront the eastern army. There was a plan for the two forces to rejoin later at Jerusalem, or earlier, depending on the vagaries of war and the upcoming winter.

Tatikious was furious, but couldn't argue otherwise:

(1) The crusade had huge numbers, of just over 50,000 total, and could easily split into two armies of roughly the same size.
(2) Feeding such an army and other pilgrims if it stayed still for months was extremely expensive and required complicated logistics.
(3) Two smaller Holy Pilgrimages of moving in the field could live off the land much easier.
(4) Morale was high, and the soldiers and pilgrims wanted to continue.

During the 3 weeks of rest and resupply in Antioch, Kaldas kept busy. They procured Armenian and Greek merchants who traveled down to Homs to act as guides. Supply wagons (critically, water wagons) were repaired and new ones purchased.

Aubert also tried recruiting from the locals, but other than getting some naive and idealistic youth, didn't do well. Further, he tried to recruit heavily from the German camp, using his wife Velkonia to translate but she botched her translation roll and were laughed out of the German camp...

In the downtime, Kaldas used his Summoning power to Scour for Djinn, and then Commanded most (18) of them to follow him, with the remainder (3) bound through bargaining. Using these Jinn and including, Bartamaeus, he collected some of the vis from defeated Jinn and had them search Antioch and surroundings for other vis sources. This turned into a fortune of vis, despite not getting all of it.

Kaldas also looted supplies from slain Sahirs' houses/Manors in the city. (Bartamaeus having served various Sahirs over the years and had some idea where to look.)

Peter the Hermit approached Aubert, saying that the Apocalypse and the return of Jesus was coming soon, and because of the Giant descendants of the Nephilim, would be accompanying the part of the pilgrimage going through Aleppo. Bishop Adhemar Le Puy and the papal clerics mostly went with Raymond's forces.

In the Hermetic camp, once again there was much bickering among the Tytali, who were enjoying the chaos, disagreements, and intrigue far too much. Kaldas didn't even bother trying to interact with them, and focused on recruiting the Flambeau and few of the other houses to march with his "brother's" forces. As a result, the 1 Tremere, 1 Criamon, 9 Flambeau (including 2 Archmagi), and Æþelbeorht ex Jerbiton accompanied Bohemond's march on Aleppo.

That's it for today, I'll type more soon.

Note: If something is particularly ahistorical, let me know, and I might have a rationalization for it, or I may not. :wink:

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This is all good fun, and seems perfectly in keeping with "history as seen through Ars Magica." Great work! :smiley:

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Thank you for the encouragement! Do you have any thoughts on the implications of the Byzantines regaining Antioch instead of it becoming a protectorate/tributary kingdom as in OTL?

That said, you may want to hold off until you read some of the next updates. :smile:

Aleppo I:

The march to Aleppo started well, the army left September 21st of 1097. Siege equipment had been deconstructed, with horses and other pack animals to move it. Aubert’s reputation (at 3 by this point) was strong but still his relative greenness compared to the great Franko-Norman lords meant he was in the middle of the army, not trusted with the rear or the vanguard.

Kaldas had recruited nearly all of the non Tytalus magi, to march with Aubert’s “nation,” with only a lone Isobela ex Jerbiton, Æþelbeorht’s wife, to chronicle the utterly incessant Tytalus bickering. Their involvement in Antioch fighting the Sahirs inspired a whole new dimension of their games that Kaldas refused to participate in.

Tactically, after the Crusader’s experiences with the Turks, they followed Tatikios’s advice: The army marched in 4 close formations of a “fighting march” (historical!). This is a rectangular box of infantry with enmeshed archers/crossbowman who then surround the supply train and the medium and heavy cavalry in the middle. In the event of an attack from Turkish horse archers, the armored infantry soak arrows, the archers/crossbowmen fire back from a farther range, and the protected cavalry wait to pounce on the Turkish horsemen if they made the mistake of getting too close.

This worked brilliantly against the first couple night raids on their supplies. It did not work when the armies supply wagons were attacked by aerial and invisible Jinn. Aubert had to coordinate archers using his Second Sight on where to make massed arrow attacks, and managed fend them off his army, but the other three commanders were less effective, and supplies were lost before the attached Hermetic wizards could effectively fend off the Jinn.

Kaldas coordinated with the attached Flambeau to disperse amongst the army to help fend off further attacks, with the Russian Tytali remaining with him. Aubert passed some orders to create an irresistible target: sloppy night guards, his men pretended to be disorganized and demoralized. When the next attack focused on Aubert’s Forces, the four Russian Tytali turned into Giants and massacred the attacking Jinn, who were numerous but relatively weak.

It did not end there. Further day raids happened with newly summoned Jinn, which surprised the Crusaders more. Kaldas ordered his Commanded and bound Jinn to go scout and find out. A mighty War Jinn named “Gebron,” was organizing the raids. Kaldas ordered all of his Jinn to follow Bartamaeus’s instructions and go kill Gebron. This resulted in the destruction of the castle of Harim, whose population along with Artah’s had earlier fled to Aleppo.

This did work, but Kaldas lost a most of his Jinn, with 6 out of 21 remaining, with Bartamaeus reporting they killed other lesser Jinn. The vis however did get recovered after the battle. Kaldas did investigate for a Sahir presence, but could not find any sign, assuming (correctly) they were scrying and giving their Jinn a longer leash to harass the crusaders.

Given the massive size of the crusader forces and the destruction of Harim, the forces of Artah fled to Aleppo, with Crusaders capturing the town & castle. Bohemond had his colors put on the front gate as a marker.

After leaving Harim, the raids slowed down to merely tested and probed the Crusaders’ defences rather than true raids.

The arrival to Aleppo needs a quick note about the historical layout in 1097 vs later in the Crusader period. The second eastern wall was an additional construction made by the Ayyubids well after the 1st Crusade and not finished until 1134. The famous Citadel at this point in history was more exposed than the famous pictures you see on the internet today. The gatehouse was not nearly as developed either, with the famous 540 degrees worth of turning not yet made.

The Crusaders settled around some distance away from the artillery on the walls while they began constructing siege engines with what they could from the surviving supplies. Aubert’s nation took the south, Robert of Flanders the west, Bohemond the north, and Robert of Normandy the east to create a full blockade of the city.

Kaldas called a council with the Flambeau and Tytalus magi, making the case that the Order of Solomon clearly had little compunction about interference, and that Order of Hermes needed to treat this is a larger war with a rival order of wizards. Even without a Quaesitor present, they knew this was new legal territory, as the only applicable rulings were "join or die."

At time same time, they agreed that waiting for the Order of Solomon to regroup and make another attack was foolish. Kaldas asked them to give him two days to “get an informant in and out of the city to get the layout of the defenses.”

The Flambeau Archmagi most certainly raised their eyebrows, and argued that was unnecessary. They could merely cast Veil of Invisibility and scout for themselves. Kaldas argued far better for him to take some chances and for them to act on solid intelligence. Reluctantly they agreed, saying that could cause scrying magic on the city to get a decent sense of it anyways.

Kaldas also found out using his Eyes of the Eagle spell combined with Second Sight that they city had dozens of Jinn up in the sky, watching. With that, he ordered Bartamaeus to sneak in most carefully and locate where the Order of Solomon gathered and to get out.

The news of Jinn in the sky allowed Kaldas to argue against the Flambeau to attack, because of potential damage to the city, and to avoid falling into a trap. The Flambeau argued that sneaking invisibly and raiding the city for just a couple minutes (20 combat rounds) at a time would allow them to test how formidable the defenses truly were.

The Russian Tytalus magi agreed, heavily outvoted Kaldas. With Veil of Invisibility and some Rego Corpus magic, everyone could get inside without much trouble during the night and to start killing guards and see how long it took for the Jinn to come in numbers. Kaldas also wanted to probe the extent of the orders given to the Jinn, to see how much flexibility they were allowed.

As cover for the raids, Aubert in the War council with the princes let them know he would organize a group of elite men to conduct raids into the city. The Princes felt it would be foolish… However, Kaldas argued he “the right kind of unusual men for the job.” The princes taking the hint about wizards agreed to allow them to continue so long as they were successful.

The night raids worked well, because they were truly short. By the time Jinn and Sahir’s came in numbers, the hermetic Magi were already gone. They picked different spots each time. The various Crusader camps did wonder about fireworks in the evening, but word got round about some kind of secret group making night attacks, and figured it involved Greek Fire of some sort.

Because of this, Kaldas allowed Bartamaeus a bit more time to find the Order of Solomon’s location in the city. Once it was found, there was considerable disagreement on how to attack. The raids of the Jinn were too coordinated, with potentially spies, or some kind of auguries giving them away.

Kaldas, thinking big, argued for a tunnel to go from there camp and appear underneath the Order of Solomon's Aleppo headquarters.

Aislinn ex Flambeau, the Rego Terram specialist, suggested he could do such a thing, but with a lot of vis for a spontaneous spell. Risky, but worth it, so the rest of the magi agreed.

A hole opened in the ground opened, with a pile of sand/dirt/clay being excavated out of it.

Now, Aislinn’s estimations and control of magic while handling 20 pawns of vis to cast a spontaneous ReTe 40 spell (at least by my estimations) was not up to the task, and when I rolled for him, he botched. Not once, not twice, not thrice, but four 0’s appeared. As GM, I thought about it a second, rolled on my handy dandy chart to see what kind of botch, (weighted towards catastrophic failure), it actually turned into a critical success of all things.

But still, a quadruple botch for a 40th level spell has some exciting consequences.

The magi watched in horror as Aislinn lost control of the spell… And dissipated in a fantastically colorful puff of multihued yellow-brown rainbow into Wizard’s Twilight.

The excavation of earth magnified a hundred-fold. The ground shook, and a massive earthquake started, knocking most people over – even Kaldas failed his Dexterity check.

The earth did not stop spilling out of the hole, so not only was there an earthquake, but the underground tunnel was actually lowering the ground. Kaldas did okay on his perception check, so didn’t spot it right away. By the time he did, he made the roll to realize that the Magi were behind his army… With Aubert’s army on top of what would soon be a small canyon, which would kill much of his new army.

Kaldas made a decent leadership roll (18 or so, including a +6 from confidence) to run screaming through the army and get them to move eastwards as the bulk of the army was on the east of the canyon already. Aubert’s army responded, as Kaldas and Aubert are perfect twins, but found it odd Aubert wasn’t there initially. The player had to make some guile rolls and spontaneously cast some spells to lose his wizard’s garments and summon his armor subtly to make it seem like Aubert appeared on the scene. (Handy to have Subtle + Silent magic virtues). These spells cost a sweet amount of vis to pull off.

Painfully, this also included abandoning some supply & water wagons in order to maintain his Secret Identity.

From there by the time “Aubert” got them moved over and out of the way… He watched the canyon grow into Aleppo, pulling down the walls and rubble with it. There was a way in, but, that no one was prepared for.

The player realized he HAD to attack, with just his own forces. The total Leadership roll to send a couple messengers to each other camp to come around for an attack, while leading his own, smaller force as the vanguard into the city was 24 (again, including those handy 2 CP for an extra +6). The Aleppo commander, only totaled 12, rolling a 0, but not a botch and spending confidence. It was a slaughter.

Unknown to Aubert, since the hermetic Magi did know the rough location to attack, the two Archmagi led it. They did not hold back and blew up a significant amount of the city (a critical fail for collateral damage on the random chart) ahead of Aubert’s assault in the their quest to slay all of the Sahirs in the Order of Solomon's in Aleppo

The Crusaders took the city… But between the earthquake and the unleashed Hermetic attack, it looked like a post apocalyptic warzone. Barely more than a third of Aleppo remained still intact and functional, and the wall had several new openings that needed filled.

Given the earthquake and sudden attack… Ridwan of Aleppo’s personal Astrologer (historical!), a Sahir and a member of the Order of Solomon cast an augury and ordered the Emir to flee or face certain death. Ridwan fled with his family in the chaos to Mosul, leaving his men to fend for themselves.

Many Muslim/Turkish soldiers did not fight and were captured. After the battle, Aubert argued for mercy, but Bohemond and the two Roberts had outwitted Aubert, with men ready to slaughter thousands of captured soldiers and ransomed only those with means to pay exorbitant ransoms. Aubert at least tried to get the executed men put into mass burials, rather than rot outside of the city.

Peter the Hermit declared their unexpected success as a sign from God, and that Jesus would soon come down from the Heavens to bless them in person before battle with the Antichrist.

Bohemond declared himself the “Prince of Aleppo,” and is “protecting it for the Emperor.”

Notes:

If anyone has any historical corrections to offer or questions to ask, please do. For example I’m not clear actually what title Bohemond would have proclaimed himself as, or if he would have been so bold at this point in the Crusade.

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Well, I guess that was what Alexios actually wanted, so he'd probably be pretty pleased. :slight_smile:

I can see this heralding a deeper involvement by the Byzantines in the activities of the crusade, since they actually have an outpost at the northern end of the Levant. That said, they'd also probably be focusing a lot of their energies on consolidating as much territory in Asia Minor as they could, so that might limit how far they could be involved in the crusader states proper (in other words, you have justifications either way, depending on how far you want them interfering in the crusaders' subsequent activities for dramatic effect).

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This is all fantastic. I'm really enjoying how deeply you've thought about all this, and the level of historical detail you've been adhering to.

I can totally see Bohemond deciding that this was his moment to stake his own claim to territory. He would likely style himself "prince" (Latin: Princeps), which is a ruler's title as well as being used specifically a designator for "son of the king," as we tend to think of it today (so two uses, not both required at once). That is the title he used in RL when he ruled Antioch.

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I can see this heralding a deeper involvement by the Byzantines in the activities of the crusade, since they actually have an outpost at the northern end of the Levant. That said, they'd also probably be focusing a lot of their energies on consolidating as much territory in Asia Minor as they could, so that might limit how far they could be involved in the crusader states proper (in other words, you have justifications either way, depending on how far you want them interfering in the crusaders' subsequent activities for dramatic effect).

Cool. I had not thought yet about using the Byzantines at a dramatic moment, so will think on how to incorporate them further. Asia Minor will still occupy them a lot, as historically by my understanding they were so weak they couldn't hold on to most of the conquests the First Crusade made due to lack of manpower. This time they at least have a 10 year truce with Kilij Arslan, and have economically ruined him, so they'll have a bit of an easier time of things. The Crusaders also mauled the Danishmend badly, which is again to the Byzantine's advantage.

Thank you so much, that means a lot! I really enjoy reading the history books and putting them to use in the saga. It is now edited that Bohemond is declared himself as "Prince of Aleppo."