Ars Magica LARP at DunDraCon in SF Bay Area

This might be redundant because I'll not be able to read the forum for the next few days, but Erik -and anyone else for that matter- I'm really really dying to hear reports on how your Tribunal went!!! Please dont keep me on the rack longer than needed be - cruel and inhuman treatment and all!!


Didn't anyone participate or was it just so clandestine that you dont want to share just a few teasers with the geographically challenged?

Sorry for the delay. I've got like 20 things demanding my attention, but I should be able to find the time to give you an update. :slight_smile:

The game happened, with about 15 players. This wasn't optimal, but it was still possible, so we elected to go ahead. Actually, we only had about 12 players at the start, but three more joined us over the course of the event. As far as I can tell, a good time was had by all who participated. There were lots of cool costumes (I was dressed as a Redcap) and the room decorations looked fabulous.

We had five of the six members of Fanum at the Tribunal. That plot was kind of anticlimactic, because there was only one representative of the covenant that had a complaint against them in attendance, and Fanum was able to buy him off, so that he withdrew his complaint and their breach of the Code never came to a vote.

I showed most of the players how to play certamen with all of the cards I printed up, but no one wanted to use it to resolve any of their differences in game. I think many of them were worried that if they played and failed, they would be too vulnerable if someone else challenged them.

On the whole, the players seemed more interested in "everybody wins" solutions, rather than playing out conflict. I am told this is a side effect of playing in a large LARP community: since everyone will be in games together again, they don't want to gain a reputation for being a jerk.

I think the most interesting plot was the Bonisagus who had discovered an interesting but dangerous breakthrough in Hermetic Theory. He had an obligation to share his discovery with the Order, especially since he had taken another magus's apprentice to help him with it. He and the other Bonisagi ended up destroying his lab and notes so that no one could learn the secret, and then telling everyone else what they had done, to ensure that they upheld their oaths.

There was some nice interplay where it was suggested they wipe the Bonisagus's memory to ensure the secret never got out, and the Tremere Archmage made a big stink about how if it was him, he would NEVER submit to that, and that it was a crime even to suggest it. They finally voted to take the matter to the Grand Tribunal, and the Bonisagus swore not to continue or share his knowledge until then. Everyone was a little nervous about that, but the motion carried nevertheless.

For a while, it looked like the Bonisagus might join another House. The Bonisagus Prima had made a deal with the Bjornaer Prima to extend an invitation to him, so that he would no longer be bound by the Code to share his research. However, the Bonisagus refused to do this, which I thought was quite exciting and took guts, since the Bonisagus Prima could have kicked him out anyway.

Most of the vis source disputes were settled amicably. In one case, where there was a source that had been registered to another covenant that was rarely able to harvest it, the Verditius from Fanum who had joined another young covenant agreed to use the vis to make magic devices, which would be given back to the covenant who owned the vis source. That way, the vis wouldn't go to waste and the Verditius would gain experience and increase his reputation.

For all the plots about taking on the mundanes, the Tribunal wimped out. This was in a large part due to the Head Quaesitor, who kept reminding them that even if they, as a group, decided to authorize some action against the mundanes, it would not protect them against retribution if their actions led to harm to other magi. In the end, on every issue, they decided to form a committee of magi to discuss the issue further. They authorized one of these committees to further mundane scholarship, but they were quite divided on what this committee should actually do. The sticking point was that they did not want to support the Church in any way.

A Merinita maga in attendance claimed to have discovered the Founder Tytalus sealed within a block of ice, which caused an interesting stir. She was begging the Tribunal for direction and advice, but they didn't really have a consensus. Some thought she should free him immediately, while others thought they should leave him alone. In the end, they decided to authorize her to try to negotiate with the faeries for more general aid, but with the caution that she could not speak for all magi or use their decision to protect her if she should break the Code. I believe she had decided to leave Tytalus where he was, and I had a fun conversation with another player about how we were sure that as soon as they heard about it, some young Tytalus would rush out to the spot and challenge the Founder to certamen. "Do you yield? Do you yield? Ha! He has to yield! I win!"

On the whole, it was a nice time. I was surprised at how casual it all was. It kind of felt like a medieval gamers' convention. :slight_smile: A lot of the players asked about Ars Magica, as many of them had never heard of it. The dealer room hadn't brought any of the books on the Saturday, but thanks to players asking about them, one vendor had some on Sunday. Perhaps we will soon be joined on these boards by some more fans of the game?

Hi Erik!

Two things to begin with: First of all I want to express a huge gratidtude for your long and interesting update! Secondly I have to admit being very sorry for never returning to you on the Certamen cards, I could talk of a stubborn pneumonia making me either lack the time or the memory to get several things done, but basically I'm just sorry.

Sounds fabulous!! Any slim chance of any pictures, or a link to picture, becoming awailable for the rest of us to laugh and admire (or chew our Ars books in pieces due to jealousy)?

That's interesting - I had the exact same experience as the regnant of Fanum when we played it here! I recall having posted this elsewhere, but as we travelled to the session together, the 3 of us from the same home troupe playing Fanum, we really had this foreboding sense of going toward our (characters') doom - or at least a very tough spot. But we never really got pressured by the others - in a sense, even if gaining a 'victory', that was a sort of disappointment having looked forward to grim opposition.

If you had the same experience I might consider upping the pressure on Fanum when, and if, I set it up. It might be by adding focus to the characters' motivation to enforce the Code or it might be by tweaking the primers given to players to introduce them to the setting - those who might be new to Ars.

Interesting. Of course Certamen-week magi would be weary to get involved in Certamens, but it's a pity if it kept all from using it - it seemed not only as a good setting tool, but also a great tool for drama! I hope you can still be persuaded in allowing me a peek of the cards as they ended up - I really still believe in the idea, and I'd like to use it if I get around to setting up another Fanum here in Denmark.

That's a pity. I do however think it is a question of tradition of the community rather than its size. I really think it is an important feature in all roleplaying -and especially the LARP or experimental kinds- that all involved has a strong sense of dividing real life from in-game actions. I know from the cons around here that very often the strangers I've hitted off with after a given session -whether LARP or word-RPGs (aka tabletop)- has been the ones that had either been adversaries or the ones I had the most fevered arguments with. If there's a solid tradition of being cool about the in-game drama I often find that the more you've been cross with someone ingame the more you've actually bonded with those persons in generel.

Awww - I really really like that plot!!! I recall playing Fanum vividly and that plot is to me simply one of the best plots possible. So many contradicting things to take into account, yet the dilemma has to be solved as it might ruin the Order - might even undermine peace and toss ME into an age of chaos if it goes really bad. But on the other hand there are principles that are important, and advantages burried, but what is the price, even if elusive, for compromising them? It's really very interesting reading your sessions 'solution'.

However, I always kept wondering if things can and will stay burried...

Very meek! But also quite wizard-like of sorts. I've wondered, even if probably impossible, how it would be to make a sequel, or plan the game in advance to be a short trilogy. In that way the SGs could up or change the stakes for the following tribunals - having the players feel the consequences of their actions and having to adapt to increased or changed pressure. Several of the cases included in Fanum could potentially toss a tribunal into a crisis lasting 21 years.... It would also infuse nuance into the decisions and might make easy compromises.. well, less easy.

ROFL :laughing: Nothing to add except that this is yet another very interesting and potentially upsetting challenge for a tribunal!

OK - now I'll really go gnaw on my Ars books being green from jealousy :mrgreen: ! I'll attempt to start with the 3rd edition and PDF's so that I'll hopefully have my full prior to tearing into the 5th books!!

But once more - great thanks for the update!!!