Book raid on Katsberg (a short 2 hr adventure)

Set up:

The century old, Dimicatio champion, Nero ex Flambeau has modified "Summon the Mystic Tower" to summon a small church, and given up magic after casting this. He has a few books that could be useful to the party. This is probably a good quest for the early game, when the players have a limited library and lack the means to cast the spell. It can give them the long term goal of getting enough Te vis and CrTe to actually build their own church.

Rumours/OoH lore

The party hears through someone in the Order (in my party, it was thew pirates of Waddenzee) that Nero had traded most of his magic loot for Te vis and some cash, before moving to somewhere near Ypres.

OoH Lore will reveal information about the life of Nero.


I chose the location of the Abbaye Sainte-Marie aux Monts-des-Cats, because it was convenient distance wise. I was inspired by visiting the Basilique de l'epine. Ultimately, the location is of little importance. It's an out of place church that suddenly appeared in the middle of nowhere.

The Church of the Virgin Mary, Saint Hildegaard and Saint Luke

It is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, Saint Hildegard of Bingen* and Saint Luke the apostle. He has built a flamboyant Gothic church out of one huge pale sandstone block, covered in statues and gargoyles. Each gargoyle is a different animal, whose home regions correspond more or less to the side of the church it is on. The statues on the front represent the saints and the apostles. Also, smaller statues just along the roof shaped like common folk in their work attire holding the roof up. His remaining silver was spent on making clear glass panels, making it the brightest church yet.

(*: the sanctity of Hildegard von Bingen can be discussed, but in the period, local saints would be seen as such before being accepted by Rome, so an in-game theological debate about this would be fine)

Inside the church is a well dedicated to the Virgin Mary (which has “thank you” carved in the stone base in French, Flemish and Latin), which helps with fertility (Divine aspected Cr vis, once per year, on the Assumption day, 15th August). Reciting 12 Ave Maria then drinking from the well is said to bring the blessing of the Virgin: healing the infirm or helping with conception.

A beautifully ornate Rood screen splits the church in two, it is decorated with gothic spires as well.

The whole place is incredibly bright thanks to the huge glass windows.

The Dormitory

The monks live in two small, freshly build half timbered and thatched houses just opposite the eastern end of the Church. They live in spartan rooms, with little furniuture aside from tables. Both dormitories have a chimney and a hearth. In the first dormitory there is a shelf for books, which isn't hidden. It contains brother Laurentius' books as well as a book of catechism. The other has space for animals: a few sheep.


Nero ex Flambeau, now brother Laurentius

He suffered a serious Twilight episode, which left him god-touched. He went from aggressive Hoplite and dimicatio champion to pacifist little old man. He went on the crusade to Egypt, as part of the Flemish and lowland contingent, participating in the taking of Damietta (128/9), although he did it all without magic. After the crusaders evacuated, he returned to the Normandy Tribunal, where he traded almost all his goods and books for Te Vis and silver. He spent some time developing “Bringing the Church of Light” an upgraded version of the Summoning the Magic Tower, that summons an ornate church.

He wears a simple dark robe with a white rope at the waist. He is bent forwards by age, has a longish white beard and tonsured head. Looks to be in his 70s. He is kindly, though sometimes there is a glint in his eyes of something else.

He was inspired by the Saint Denis Basilica near Paris and the Cathedral of Laon, so he decided to take it to the extreme and to use all the Finesse that he’d learned. Seeing this divine work as the true meaning of his magical learning. He has sworn to never cast a spell again, unless it is the building of a church.

He is on good terms with the priest of Godewaersvelde, the local village. While he does not lie, he has not done anything to dispel the rumour that the church's appearance is a miracle.

Other Brothers

The other brothers here are:

  • Stefane (young and french, just over 20, bad latin, enthusiastic, will be in the church and receive the PCs and give them a tour)
  • Dominique (Oldest looking, French, moves very slowly, has the leading role among the brothers)
  • Floris (50s, Flemish, from a day's walk away. As a widower, he gave up his land to his sons and went to join the church the day it appeared, he has yet to learn latin, but is true in his faith)

There is no formal priest here, although the local priest in Godewaersvelde has received confirmation that a curate will be appointed to preach in this new church.



1210s: Nero emerges from Twilight deeply religious, he finds his way to Godewaersvelde and the Katsberg, where he drinks from the divine well water and befriends the priest. He goes on crusade to obtain full remission of his sins. Upon his return to Normandy, he trades his hermetic goods for tratactii in finesse and Terram, and develops the spell "Bringing the Church of Light" (see later) and then trades almost everything for the Te vis he needs.

early 1220s: he casts the spell and swears to give up magic. From then on he no longer renews his longevity ritual and abstains from sin.

Player visit

the monks live a quiet life of toil around the church, maintaining it as well as keeping themselves fed and praying.

The players can meet the monks either by going to the church or to the dormitories. When asked about Nero, none of them will know of him, though the more educated monks might comment about how he was an evil emperor and an enemy of christendom.

Brother Laurentius will insist on being called by his new name, though his good latin and a mention of being burned by Ignem should tip off the players. Once discovered, he will make no effort to hide his old identity, besides demanding that he be addressed as brother Laurentius. He will tell the players his story as well as enjoining them to reject the material life and dedicate them to spiritual life.

(His is one answer as to what old magi might do, reject magic and try to save their souls).

He will gift the players with a written up version of the spell "Bringing the Church of Light" with very little coaxing. Pushing him further on the angle of the Order, he will relinquish the final two hermetic tractatii that he had, so long as the players make an appropriate silver donation to the maintenance of the church and for the poor. (he does not give a specific number and will mention the parable of widow if any number is mentioned.

The last two books, he will not give willingly to the characters since they are of purely religious significance, however, having forsworn magic and violence he will not oppose the players if they steal them. Instead, he will warn them of the perils to their immortal souls and have a "I'm not even angry, I'm disappointed in you" reaction,

If the PCs show faith (theology, church lore, religious/pious traits) Laurentius will be more forthcoming.


Freely given

A manuscript of “Bringing the Church of Light”

R: Touch, D; Mom. T: Ind, Ritual

An elaborate church, formed from a single block of stone, rises out of the ground. The two front tower stand at 80 feet high and is 30 feet wide, with a foundation set 20 feet into the ground (as per mystic tower). The nave will be up to 80 feet high, 60 feet wide and 120 feet long. A third tower equivalent stands at the crossing (80x30feet), the transept may extend by up to a further 30 feet on either side and can include a choir, ambulatory and apse up to 60 feet long to finish the end of the church.

The church may include a triforium, statues, gargoyles, rood screens etc. The caster makes a roll of Dex+Finesse+15-3+stress die for the details of the church.

The caster determines the design of the church with each casting.

(Base 3, +1 Touch, +5 size, +5 for the +15 to Finesse roll) Final Level 45



  • The Hermetic Control over Shape by Alphonso ex Flambeau (Finesse Q9)
  • The Most Solid of Arts, Judith ex Mercere (Te Q8)


  • Know The Ways Of The Lord (Scivias), Hildegard von Bingen, (Theology Quality 13)
  • Physica or Book of Simple Medicine ( Liber simplicis medicinae ), Hildegard von Bingen, (Philosophiae and Medicine Quality 13)

Descriptions of the tractatii

The Most Solid of Arts, Judith ex Mercere
Judith ex Mercere is mostly known for her studying of the geology of Andalusia.
However, in this tractatus she seeks to impart the importance of stability and resilience of spells but even more so their creations. In a first section she describes several examples of "Summon Mystic Towers" she encountered in Iberia and Provence, the stones chosen and how they endured the years.
A shorter second section compares and contrasts wall like spells associated with each of the four elements. She concludes that the stone one is the most desirable. The tractatus is written on calf's skin parchement, and stained in several places with the same borwn ink that it was written with. The handwriting is very loose, with the "F" and "S" sometimes hard to differentiate

The Hermetic Control over Shape by Alphonso ex Flambeau
Alphonso ex Flambeau was a strong proponent of the School of Vilano, the focus of targeted magical attacks which can bypass magical resistance. Well written in three equal sized parts, this tractatus describes first the platonic shapes and their rotations. In a second part, how such shapes can be distorted to irregular shapes, why and how one would do so. The final part is focussed on aiming. It provides a short list of examples of such applications, in particular uses of dropped boulders.
The tractatus is listed as having been copied by an apprenticed baptised under the name of Migguel in 1191, their handwriting is unremarkable except for the ornate capitalisations.


I would tack on a pile of story seeds and virtue/flaws/hooks/boons that would easily bring this into the saga, but very interesting!

Took me a few days to get around to reading it but once again a very solid write up of a plot to run. As usual the writing is clear and concise. You do a good job of presenting all the information that is necessary for the storyguide to have in an accessible format.

This one I am seriously tempted to run in my own campaign. You do a really solid job of introducing many of the elements of magic that players might want to know about. Here is a great presentation of what magic can achieve if they set their minds to it (a massive building).

I really like how low the stakes are. No combat is necessary and the players are unlikely to find themselves in greater trouble than getting scolded.

Kudos to you good sir!

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This worked actually less well than I had expected for my game.
I have three magus, one of which has religious as a flaw, but he opted to stay at home and do construction work on the covenant, but he gave a stern warning to the others not to rob the church.

So yeah the flaws which would mesh well are: pious/religious (impressed, want to cooperate and get along better with the ex-mage), envious/greedy/avaricious (steals the tractatii or gives a paltry offering), generous (gives all their silver), a wrathful (end up quarreling), pagan (offends everyone present mocking their idolatry). Since it is easy to get, enmity: the church would also be a relevant one.

In general I tried to not clutter so that it's easier to adapt.

Thanks, I am happy to read this. I am a trained scientific writer, so I approach this as a lab procedure write up: you want to be clear, to the point but include all the basic info on the set up to begin with.

I was told by my sounding board, that it was a very Nobilis scenario. I did it early on too to give them a contrast in what old mages do. I painted Philipus Niger (partly inadvertently) as a violent power hungry sociopath when he did his sales pitch to get them to join the Ash Gild. So the retired pacifist Flambeau makes a good contrast.

Actually, it could get a lot worse. If the mages try to rob them and get caught, they might only get a scolding in the short term, but they could also end up with a serious lawsuit from the church at tribunal or Teutonic knights knocking on their door one day coming to see the piper paid...

I have tried to mix high and low stakes adventures in general for this campaign. The Drachenfells dungeon crawl was a serious danger, including that of character death (devoured by a horde of draconics, falling down a bottomless chasm) and twice so far I have put one of the mages for a full season in Garrinchus' healing room in Cologne...

I finished yesterday's session with the debauched wine-festival at Baccus' stone, and one of the grogs got a really nasty botch on recovering from the effect of the hangover (so I gave him a light wound equivalent). But the players were already joking "The party was so amazing, Krabatt died!". The heavy wound that one mage sustained was him choosing to challenge the faerie queen's bodyguard to a duel to first blood, just for fun. So I know that low stakes can turn bloody fast.

what do you mean when you say that the scenario is nobilis?

I do think that it is fair to call a scenario low-stakes even if they players might find a way to up the stakes, since the responsibility for doing so is on their own shoulders. The players always have to option to seek out deadly conflict, a low stakes scenario is one where the storyguide does not force life-or-death conflict on the players. I should mention that low-stakes is my preferred style, so I do not mean it in a negative way, quite the contrary. What I mean is that the scenario is clearly meant to be resolved without violence and that before the NPC's will begin using deadly force there will be a stair of escalation that they will go through first in order to avoid resorting to violence.

For your scenario to go deadly your players would likely have to go through a whole stair of escalation with many steps where each step of escalation would be clear to the players. like you describe with teutonic knights the escalation might look something like: 1)they decide to steal the books, Laurentius catches them in the act and tries to browbeat them into behaving, they dont. 2). They get a sternly worded letter from a church official who demands they return the books or suffer the consequences, they dont comply. 3). They are summoned to court, and decide against showing up. 4). The church raises the issue at tribunal with a threat of violence should the matter not be resolved. 5). Teutonic knights show up demanding justice or violence.

At each step it is, or at least should be, clear that the players will be going to up the conflict and they will have the chance to back down and resolve the conflict without violence. I think that the example you bring up with a player challenging the faerie queens bodyguard to a duel for fun is a good example of a low-stakes play. If I understand you correctly the bodyguard was not looking for a fight, and situation would not have happened if the player had not decided to up the stakes by a million for fun. The point is that the responsibility for introducing mortal danger was on the player.

The drachenfels adventure was indeed high-stakes, as the drakes would IIRC attack the players without the players first taking some form of offensive action.

I hope that your scientific writing is as clear as your Ars Magica writing then, as my personal experience is that clarity of writing is sadly not a requirement for scientific writers :slight_smile:

My friend pointed out that it felt similar to the kind of adventure he'd seen in the game Nobilis. I have only played a one-off of it, so I do not have strong opinions on the matter.

I think we are in agreement then, regarding low stakes.

In the other game I play in, we escalated repeatedly with the church and we had an army of the Livonian order come at our doorstep (we destroyed them with group+1 target CrAu and vikings) and this culminated with Riga being sacked by a pagan army...

In this case, the party just pestered all the monks until they found the one who name dropped Ignem,
nodded and agreed with him and made an offering of half of their wealth, then went on their merry way back home. I feel that I could have done a better job, but because it was the end of the session and I was running out of time I went a little faster than I would if I ran this again. The players were happy with the loot, and on the scale of things getting 2 tractatii and a high level spell scroll for 3.5 mythic pounds' worth of mismatched silverware is an unbelievable bargain...

Exactly this. The bodyguard was not doing anything specific, just being a 3.5m high ogre who can drink an auroch horn full of ale in one go, and when challenged, I tried to avoid escalation, by offering the choice to the PC whether it would be a drinking contest or unarmed. He chose first blood with weapons, despite having poor quickness and dex...

In that case I think that you can safely say that the responsibility for the outcome rests solely on the player. You as storyguide have at that point done plenty to inform that player that fighting the ogre bodyguard is a stupid idea and likely to end badly. The players always have to option to make rash or outright stupid decisions or to escalate to an extreme degree, the storyguides responsibility is in making the potential consequences of such actions clear.

I feel for you as storyguide in that situation. I definitely know what it is like to have a player decide to do something incredibly rash out of nowhere.

Oh yeah, and he's a friend of over 10 years, this is exactly the kind of stuff he does. He did give his character Major flaw "reckless", and in that respect, it was perfect RP.
He also took death prophecy to mitigate the damage of his recklessness...

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seems like he knows his weakness. :joy:

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He does, we all do. When I mentioned to my sounding board group what had happened, I got as answer

"you showed him a 3.5m tall hard drinking ogre with a battleaxe, what else did you expect him to do?"