Contested Isle- what happened to Ashenrise?

So I got a copy of Contested Isle: Hibernia Tribunal and eagerly flicked to the Ashenrise Covenant to learn what the former Stonehenge Magi in Exile were planning for villainous Blackthorn and.... Learned they'd been totally retconned to some Normandy Tribunal backstory that had nothing to do with the Heirs of Merlin conflict. So what happened? Why the big change? Is there an alternative version somewhere for those that preferred the inter-Irish Sea conflict of a Stonehenge and Hibernian conflict?

Well, while some things from 4th Edition might carry through, 5th Edition reset canon. And something's mentioned in previous books formHibernia never made it in, one of which was the Beastmaster tradition mentioned in HoH:Societatas (iirc).

I am just a player and have no secret knowledge, but my money is placing blame on the New Tremere.

It is important to remember that in previous editions, Tremere were basically mustache-twirling villains and Blackthorne was their base in the British Isles. But the House has been entirely re-imagined. Which means that, in a 5th edition Stonehenge Tribunal, Blackthorne would be totally different. What would it be like? Impossible to say, really, without a new Stonehenge Tribunal book. Which we're not getting.

So what are the authors to do? Answer: Tie Ashenrise to one of the 5th edition books we DO have. Leaving Stonehenge and Blackthorne for later.

Just a guess.

Do not trust Doctorcomics. He is obviously a moustache twirling villain per his avatar.

Anyhow, easy enough to recreate Blackthorne to be a non-Tremere-moustache covenant and some other more personalized sort of antagonist covenant. Unless you prefer Bad Ol' Tremere, in which case you're set.


Vrylakos is right. I do have a mustache. And I twirl it.

Cue evil laugh.

So that The Contested Isle doesn't restrict whomever writes a new Stonehenge book. It really is important to avoid authors for Ars Magica needing to have memorised every book published for ArM5.

The change for Tremere would probably have meant that the plot needed looking at in any case, but the main reason is to avoid problems within the line.

I like the implication that we will be getting rewrites of the old tribunal books. :wink:

I dont understand this argument. For a start, Contested Isle refers to the Normanday book, so clearly the the author is referring back to another ArM5 book, and needed to have had access to it. Also, in these days of near ubiquitious PDF's, surely any author for ArM5 can be sent the entire line for nearly no cost, so they can check details etc?

Also if there is a new Stonehenge book, what is the philosophy here? Is it a blank slate where there is no link between edition to edition? So the new book might not have a Blackthorn covenant at all, or an entirely different range of covenants?

To me, while I can understand wanting to provide new material and creative freedom to the writer, it would also be a bit of a disaster since so many groups have learned about the setting from the previous books, gamed there and interacted with the NPC's and invested in the setting. A major retcon between ArM4 Heirs to a 5th book that starts as a blank slate would probably bring more howls of rage and disappointment than WotC got for messing up the Forgotten Realms in 4th edition with crashing an alternative reality into the planet.

What you are missing is that the game exists in its current form because a lot of people put in a lot of work for love, rather than the small honorarium the authors are paid. People drop out of the author pool all the time, sometimes permanently and sometimes, like me in 2013, temporarily. These people can't be replaced if you say to them "To write for us, you need to buy or steal 20 or so, books, then read them all." Ars has a hard enough time getting people who do this sort of thing for fun in because it is a crunch heavy game, and so when you are writing it takes half an hour to write each monster (in Doctor Who : Adventures in Time and Space, but contrast, it takes about two minutes.)

No author pool, no game in current form. The "not binding future authors" thing is not an artistic choice: it's a necessary structural element of having a healthy author pool.

The author of TCI chose to put in Ashenrise, presumably because they knew LatL and wanted to, not because they were compelled to by a previous autho, in, say, LatL, saying "They set up Ashenrise." Occassionally there are slips - for example I said there was no covenant in Constantinople in LatL, and that made life ahrdeer than it needed to be for the people writing the Thebes book.

Yes - it's a blank slate.

Yes, there are howls of disappointment when canon changes. Nonetheless, the blank slate is necessary, because you can't demand people find writing in old canon fun. Also, old canon is, in places, quite weakly written.

1 Like

Emphatically, totally seconded on that last point. Bear in mind that Jonathan Tweet and Mark Rein-Hagen were college students when they established much of the canon in ArM2 (ArM1 had little of today's canon to speak of -- Houses and the Code of Hermes had not been invented yet). The essentials of what they did were brilliant, which is why we all still play this game. Several of the current authors have been playing Ars Magica and reading medieval history longer than the original designers had been alive at the time they came up with setting elements like Ashenrise, Blackthorn, and House Tremere. It is fully believable that today's author pool could, given the opportunity, improve on just about every facet of Mythic Europe and the Order of Hermes.

The reason they don't take the opportunity at every turn is mostly due to respect for the longtime fans. Every time an author changes something, even something minor, even something that was quite weakly written in its original form, that does violence to somebody's Saga, somewhere. It sours a happy memory from someone who loved that weakly-written facet of the setting back in their own high school or college Saga. So every retcon is a calculation whether the benefits will outweigh the harm. The reason people write for Ars Magica is to keep gradually making the game better, and changing too much, too fast will not really accomplish that in my opinion.

Your mileage may vary whether the 5E authors have got the balance right between preserving tradition and re-imagining aspects of the canon that were weak to begin with.

1 Like