Ars Magica 5th: The Price of Freedom [3-4 Players]


Campaign Title: The Price of Freedom.
System: Ars Magica 5th Edition
# of Players: 3-4 players.

Deadline: Aiming to start play before the end of October, provided enough player are interested in such a saga.
Starting Level: Shortly after Gauntlet.
Advancement Rules: Standard apprenticeship. Advancement during play may be slowed down by the scarcity of resources.
Combat Rules: Mostly narrative, but combat will not be commonplace.
Dice-Rolling Rules: Storyguide will make all rolls.
Special Rules: House rules to be agreed upon by the troupe. Starting characters must be built using only the 5th Edition core rules.

Posting Rate: I expect players to be able to post once or twice a day most times.
Absences: Players who disappear for more than 2 weeks before prior notification may see their characters wander away from the covenant (or meet an untimely end).
Writing Expectations: I don't expect professional writing skills, but text should be writting clearly with a minimum of abbreviations.
Text Formatting: Colored text for in-character speech, italics for thoughts. Out of character quesitons/directions clearly marked (such as "((OOC: This is out of character.))"

Plot- or Character-Driven: Mostly character-driven. The most important character of the saga is the covenant. I will try to integrate historical elements into the saga as much as possible.
Focus: Survival, growth and collaboration.
Character Types: No power-hungry maniacs or would-be gods.

Campaign Description: A low resource saga. A small groups of newly-Gauntleted magi looking to build a home.

The Order of Hermes is made up of magi suspicious of each other and jealous of their power. They keep their secrets close, for knowledge is power. So they don't share books easily. Good books will be rarely copied (deals are usually made to gain access to them instead). Sources of raw vis are slowly disappearing throughout Mythic Europe, so they are guarded jealously and smaller sources are more valuable than in the early history of the Order. This forces younger 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, young magi looking for freedom must strike out on their own, for established covenants require obedience and service in exchange for access to their libraries. Sometimes, these young magi join forces to establish a small covenant, pooling their resources.

Your magus is such a freedom-seeker. You just completed your apprenticeship and want to be free from the many rules of your pater’s covenant. Your pater (or mater) will try to help you, but for the most part you are on your own. Fortunately for you, a friendly redcap has found a site where you and a few others like you could set up a small covenant. It has only a single confirmed vis source, but he thinks there might be some other minor sources in the area but you’ll have to discover those. There is a price to be paid for this knowledge, in the form of one-fifth of the vis you harvest.

Starting Resources: This is a low resource saga. Forget about the build points system from Covenants. Forget about money.
A typical newly-Gauntleted magus might receive a book or two (about 30 bp total) and a few mundane servants. Another might get the equipment needed to set up a lab, plus a few lab texts. Another gets a small turb of grogs and a minor magical item.

Expect it to be a small covenant, with many challenges set before the magi. These will be discussed by the troupe before starting play, as will the precise location of the covenant and the details of the resources.

Is your young magus up to the challenge?

Yes sir !

It will be interesting to reread the rules on Practice Experience, which get such little use in normal sagas :slight_smile:

The second thing I will be looking for from players (after an expression of interest) will be a magus concept. Only a concept, no fully detailed character.

This should be about one paragraph, no more. Half a dozen sentences, describing the core of the character.

Once we agree on the concepts, then we can proceed with actual character development. In parallel to that, we will discuss the covenant.

As soon as I have enough players, I will ask for a forum for the saga.

Well, my first concept is very dependent on the covenant's location, so I'll pitch two. For that matter the second is also location dependent, but if both fail I'll figure out something else...

Undersea Explorer
This magus has had dreams of the sea all his life. During apprenticeship he became persuaded that the floor of the ocean was full of untapped sources of vis, and resolved to find them... but he didn't want to share with a cackle of old crones too lazy to do their own work. Design Notes: primary Art Aquam, secondary Auram & Vim, magic designed to explore underwater. House: probably Tytalus, but Flambeau, Merinita, or Bjornaer (Aquatic Heartbeast) are all possibilities. Possible Virtues: Major Magical Focus (seawater) or Elemental Magic, Affinity with and/or Puissant Aquam, Affinity with and/or Puissant Swim

Variant: Underground Explorer
There may or may not be regular sources of vis underground, but there's probably tons of vis that simply got buried at one time or another. It will only take the right magus to find them ! In case the covenant is nowhere near the sea. Replace Aquam with Terram. Houses: Tytalus, Guernicus, Merinita, or Verditius (I bet there are dwarf smiths somewhere under the earth). Possible Virtues: Elemental Magic, (Strong) Faerie Blood, Immunity to Suffocation (Lesser or Greater tbd)

Hmmm... either one might work, but you should be aware of the following.

I prefer to keep the scope of the saga relatively small, geographically. It makes my job easier as a storyguide, allowing me to research the location in more depth. So a sea-side covenant would have to be limited in some way, to prevent the characters from easily travelling far and wide. Possibilities would be horrendous weather, piracy, or sea monsters. An alternative would be a covenant beside a lake or a river instead of the sea. It might work just as well for an Aquam magus, without having the open-ended nature of a seaside saga.

As for the Terram concept, well, I'm not overly fond of faeries in general, particularly as currently portrayed by 5th edition. The touch of faerie would need to be relatively light on the character.

In general, the concept of an explorer magus usually requires a secure base of operation, which is the covenant, and a lot of resources to back you (money, grogs, etc.) At the start of the saga, you won't have any of that yet, so it might be a while before you really get to explore far. Nohing that prevents such a character concept, but you need to keep that in mind. It is a low resource saga, and exploration is something that requires a lot of resources, if done at a larger scale. So building your character mainly on the explorer concept may be disappointing. Now, the struggle to get the resources to fund such exploration might make for many interesting stories. I just don't want you as a player to get frustrated if your magus is often thwarted in his attempts to explore anywhere but locally.

... lack of resources ? If the magi is limited to the distance he can swim to and back in one day because he can't afford a ship, that's also a built-in limitation... and pretty much what I had in mind.

It's okay, I never got through RoP:F either.

I actually wasn't expecting large resources, certainly not at the beginning of the story. I was planning to start small, anyway.

But I'm a bit curious: with all the easy ways for magic to make money, do you really expect the covenant to stay poor for very long ? Vis, books, those are easy to restrict, even grogs through politics and the effect of the Gift, but money ?

If you are quite isolated, money is not much use. It is fairly easy to come up with resources even for a starting magus (a freezer, magical heating and lighting, disposal of waste, prevention of leakages, a good infirmary, or the creation of large amounts of food, wood or stone, or methods to harvest them and transport them easily are easy to come by with very limited vis. It requires around 2 years of the magi working on those specific projects. So basic resources should be easy for a covenant, even one with few magical resources.

So, is the saga about covenant building or are there other story arcs to be explored? And where will it be located? it is not the same to have a covernant in Ultima Thule than one in the mountains of Capadocia, The Siberian steppe, Iceland or Malta :slight_smile: TYhe mood of the saga can vary heavily depending on those circumstances, and the expected type of adventures, so I find this important. At least it is in my real world troupe.

I find this environment good for how I envision the Tytalus (set yourself a BIG challenge and try to overcome it, not jerking around with other people) so I might try to join in if there is space. Availability most days (I work on a computer after all, so recess times can be spent typing here) except on some weekends, when my connection will be erratic at best.

Probably something more than simply a lack of resources, but nothing major or particularly threatening. As both you and Xavi mentioned, lack of resources will only go so far in limiting a covenant of magi's capabilities. It will be possible, I just don't want it to be commonplace, particularly not at first when we will be building the setting around the covenant.

It's not about the money, actually. It is more about the magical resources. Although the covenant will start with relatively few mundane resources, with time and effort they should be able to do reasonably well. They will have to be subtle about it, to avoid drawing mundane suspicion (and Quaesitors will be aggressive about mundane interference in this saga), but they will be able to do it.

Location is yet to be decided, but I'm leaning towards conventional ones - somewhere in Europe's core. Nothing fancy, nothing exotic.

Saga is primarily about building the covenant, and the tribulation of the magi as they try to achieve their freedom in a calcified Order. (Just to be clear, the goal is not to break free from the Order, but establish a new covenant in an Order that just frown upon new covenants.) I don't have any story arcs planned at the moment, but I'm sure something will come up. Expect the first decade of the covenant's life to be mostly about building the covenant and exploring what little magical resources that can be found. And fighting to keep them, of course, as established covenants try to [strike]steal them[/strike] contest the covenant's right to them.

The rest will depend on the magi that the players bring to the table. Story flaws will be used, you can count on it, as will be their background stories.

No problem. So the big thing will be access to hermetic resources (vis and hermetic books on Arts and arcane abilities).

CHARACTER CONCEPT: A hyppian tytalus up for a challenge. Generalist magus limiting himself to level 10 spells or below. he will increase that limit on a magnitude for each 5 years of hermetic age. So 10 years out of apprenticeship he will be able to study or create level 20 spells. His challenge will be to best something big. Once he gets to the covenant he will decide what (since right now I have no idea on the setting!), but beating the north Atlantic, a mountain, turn a troll infested mountain range safe for travel or make 2 major nobles cease their 5-generation long war and collaborate would not be out of the question. Ambitious, but not reckless.

Is the spell limit by the magus' choice? Or did circumstances make himinto a generalist, so that he might develop more into some of the Arts should the situation call for it?

Maybe his big challene is to bring down a nearby covenant, or a magus living there, because of some past wrongdoing that went unpunished. Or because the calcification of the Order is something that he (and probably his pater) see as leading to the disappearance of magic. So the creation of the new covenant could be part of his challenge, by shaking up the status quo.

House Tytalus might be the good guys in this saga, trying to rejunevate the Order of Hermes, which is slowly dying down because it has become excessively ordered and conservative. This is just a possibility, if the other players agree to it.

Level 10 spells by choice. And by his master being a jerk :mrgreen: Probably centering around Rego and Muto (work with what you have at hand, not with what you wish you had). Those challenges you put forward are feasible and desirable, yes, but at this stage I am unsure of what challenge I will chose for him (still too many blanks in the general layout). it may easily be that the first challenge is to make the covenant prosper, and after that he starts putting other things into his sights. :slight_smile:

FYI, IM(tabletop)S tytalus are not jerks and bad guys. You just need them to play around the hyppian philosophy and they become a challenging but not stupid option. They can still mess up stuff BIG time, but they do not make your life miserable just because. :slight_smile: Before someone points it out, I know this is not exactly what is written in the Tytalus chapter, but it is how it came across to the four members of my gaming troupe. We read the Societates book separately and all came to the same general impression, so there must be something there.

Cool with me. I'll let you think about it but will keep the idea in mind as a potential avenue for the saga.

I don't buy the House of jerks and bad guys either. And I'm also playing a Tytalus that's far from a jerk - he's more like a vigilante with a highly developped sense of justice - in the "Canaries Are Dying" saga (now moved to RPoL). It is a House bent on breaking patterns and striving to become more through conflict, but not generally intent on creating chaos for its own sake, IMHO. So I think we're on the same page.

Hopefully we'll get one or two more players interested, and we can settle down on an location and start things rolling.

I agree, House Tytalus sees conflict as a mean to an end (progress), not an end in itself. It follows that any conflict a Tytalus instigates should be with an aim in mind (if only to get a lab rat out of his lab).

I would be interested as well.

My concept would be an ex misc singer of poems akin to Väinämöinen ( ) and his Slavic and Nordic ilk. A slightly masculinist and egomaniacal shaman-type who's wont to sing someone into the swamp rather than negotiate with them. His all-males tradition should probably have shapeshifting:diving duck [from creation myth] and necessary condition: sing at least. This might work with the aquam magus, if Halancar goes there. The character might have a minor focus with herbam, perchance, and could do some rego wood crafting? I would also be interested in boosting his sponting, either with Diedne magic (not sure how this would fit, yet), or with Life-linked spontaneous.

Why would such a magus leave the northeastern reaches and move to the core of the Order, where he will be scorned as an Ex Misc and suffer from a lack of resources?

I would advise against Diedne Magic, for it comes with a heavy price if discovered. Furthermore, I have trouble reconciling a Diedne lienage with a Finnish tradition. Also, the way that Diedne Magic applies to spontaneous spells is too close to a magical focus to my taste, so it would not stack with a Magical Focus.

Also, you mention the character would be egomaniacal. As I stated in the call for players: "No power-hungry maniacs or would-be gods." An egomaniac is by definition power-hungry, to me at least. The characters need to be able to work with each others.

Sound slike we are heading for a coastal/naval saga? :slight_smile:

Possibly, although the covenant may end up being a few miles inland instead of on the coast. If you have suggestions for a specific location, let me know. I'm looking at potentials alon the coast of France, England and Germany (including Denmark).

If you prefer western europe over the mediterranean (perfectly OK for me) and like several potential locations, the Channel islands between France and England might be a good location. If we prefer exploration in less settled areas, I would say that an island or a location in the coast of Denmark might be a good place to be since it is not heavily populated by hermetics and quite a forsaken place, so the Big Guys might allow a bunch of upstarts to settle there. Poor fools :mrgreen:

For denmark I think Læsø could be a good location.
For the Channel Islands Guernsey or Saint Anne might be good locations.

I didn't think to make him northeastern per se; I was just trying to convey an impression about the direction I might be taking him in. Väinämöinen is more loose inspiration than anything else. My char's ex misc tradition might have originated somewhere in Eastern or Northern Europe, but my char might be born anywhere, perhaps depending on where the saga takes place. I was assuming the tradition would already be fully integrated into the Order.

Ok. How about life-linked? That should work with a focus, right?

Yeah, that was poor choice of words on my part; I didn't think power-hungry at all. What I had in mind was more like "slightly reckless" or "slightly badass", the kind of guy who goes to hell because he wants to ask a dead guy something; or who wins a poetry duel and asks for the other guy's sister as a prize; or who fights a huge pike to make an instrument out of its jawbone.