Covenant Design Discussion

This thread is for discussion of covenant design, we are tentatively set at 150 build points for a new (Spring) covenant, and we will need the following:
A patron- this can be anything with magic might, including one of the player's characters.
A purpose
A charter- I will open a different thread on this after we have a patron and/or a purpose so it can be discussed and perhaps even roleplayed a bit in getting it written.
We will also need to come up with which boons and hooks we want. A number of suggestions have been tossed around in the players wanted thread, let's keep the ball rolling here.

A summary of the discussions so far regarding the purpose, patron and location.

Things that were evoked:

  • Bridging the gap between the Latin and Greek traditions of the tribunal
  • Trade
  • Merinita-sponsored covenant trying to re-awaken an aspect of the old pagan gods still slumbering in a lost temple
  • Something similar could also work for a mythic regio harkening back to the ancient Cretean civilization (which was destroyed, in the main, by the eruption of Mount Santorini IRL, but there could be many reasons in Mythic Europe)
  • A covenant instigated by a Bonisagus of the old "Thracian Witches" bloodline, trying to preserve some of the more cultist elements that didn't get fully absorbed into the Order
  • A covenant based on trade and artifice, a shared Jerbiton/Verditius project
  • A mystic covenant, inspired by (or even on!) Mount Athos. This should have overlapping regio, which can be a lot of fun
  • A "front-lines" covenant, a base of operations for research and investigation into Levantine matters. Flambeau and Criamon could be unusual bed-fellows here


  • A magical goat or sheep, once part of the flocks that Hermes watched over (or stole), under his epimelios (guardian of flocks) aspect


  • Along the southern coast of the Gulf of Corinth, in Morea, somewhere between Corith and Patras (both are good trading centers)
  • A regio in or near a large town
  • The island of Thera (modern-day Santorini)

Here's a few questions we need to ask ourselves while deciding what the covenant will look like. I've included some of my personal preferences, but there is nothing that I consider a deal breaker. I will simply adjust my characters to the circumstances:

  • Coastal, inland or island? Each has its advantages and drawbacks. Having easy access to the sea means travel will be easier, although it also leaves us more vulnerable to mundane attacks. Whereas in most Tribunals being on an island would make the covenant easier to defend, I'm not sure that's really the case in Thebes. I'd prefer an inland or coastal covenant.
  • How much mundane interaction? This can be from pretty much cut off from mundanes (top of a mountain) to completely surrounded by mundanes (established within a city). I'm more inclined towards it being relatively cut off from mundanes.
  • Latin, Greek or Levantine? That could also be split between the West, the East and the South. This partains to both the location and the attitude of the magi. Will we be a pro-Latin or pro-Greek covenant? Do we care? Will we get involved in this at all? After a quick read of TSE, I must admit that the more I read about Morea, the more I like it. Although it is currently controlled by the Latin forces, it is rich with both Greek and Roman history. Gives me both something to explore and something familiar, as a player. It might be fun to be pro-Greek, but not fanatically so.
  • High- or low-power saga? Although we will be starting with relatively low resources, it doesn't mean that we will remain at that state for long. Do we want to end up with flying ships delivering cargo of captured supernatural creatures throughout the tribunal? My usual preference is towards the low-powered scale. This is more a question for silveroak to asnwer, however, as the storyguide.

I tend to drift towards high power, which is one of the reasons to start low on things like build points. If anyone has seen some of my more... borderline characters you have some idea of how far I am willing to let things go.

Thanks Arthur, some helpful questions.

I tend to like the idea of coastal. But then I am leaning to something that has some interaction with the mundane world.

As for Latin / Greek, I have not read TSE, but I like the idea of something that is trying to straddle the divide / restore more respect for the Greek culture without denigrating the Roman culture. Of course, I could be out in left field. (This does, for example, lead me to a democratic structure among the magi.)

Starting the campaign at a reasonably low level makes sense. But I rather like the idea of being able to get to significant power levels if we can keep the campaign running.

The Theban area has quite a few mountainous peninsulas and islands. It would be totally feasible to pick one of those if we want a defensible (and somewhat isolated) location and have a village for covenfolk on the waterline. Mount Athos is that same way, only on a somewhat more robust scale.

I agree that it's important to avoid a Greek-versus-Latin split, and with the politics in the area, that's easy to get embroiled in. Let's at least make sure all the main characters are either disinterested in the politics, or on the same side. My personal preference is pro-Greek, but I could easily be persuaded otherwise. As far as the Order goes, I assume that the "traditional Roman" houses such as Bonisagus, Jerbiton etc would be more Latinate, but a pro-Greek theme could well be a good glue for such characters, and a reason to strike out on their own with sodales of like mind.

I also prefer to stay on the lower end of the power scale for as long as possible. Once it starts to look like an anime, my interest has usually waned. In a very general way, I enjoy "behind the scenes" work a lot more than monster-hunting. PBP also doesn't suit itself very well for a combat focus.

That's why I asked the question. The issue is a fairly central theme in the tribunal book, but as long as we kind of agree out-of character as to how we want to approach it, I think we'll be fine. Intra-covenant conflicts are rarely fun.

Interestingly, House Jerbiton is strongly pro-Greek within the tribunal. Classical wisdom and all that. The single Tremere covenant is strongly pro-Latin. The other Houses don't have as much of a strong stance as these two, although for the most part the tribunal is much more pro-Greek than pro-Latin.

There are factions (called Leagues) pushing for specific things. The League of Constantine wants to put a Greek emperor back on the throne. The Children of Olympos would like covenants to have Greek gods of old (i.e. faeries) as patrons, instead of just any magical/faerie/divine creature or spirit. The recently created League of the Vigilant want to root out infernal influence. The League Against Idolatry strongly opposes remnants of pagan practices, including sacrifices of vis to patrons.

I would expect the most pro-latin members would be in chapter houses which have spread from France and Itally rather than actual covenants, the structure of the tribunal makes it very difficult for foreigners to "infiltrate" but at the same time a lot of people from that region will feel that they should gain influence through some variation on right of conquest... after all the Order came to the Levant on the heels of the crusades...

The Order did, but the Tribunal was organised by local Jerbiton in reaction to that (and to the Tremere/Bulgar incursions). "Right of Conquest" is not going to go over well with the many of the local covenants. And that's not even accounting for people such as much of House Criamon, who prefer learning from the strangers through coexistence. Not everyone's a Flambeau.

Just pointing out the local situation, and the fact is the Latins will have a tough time of it, except when it comes to dealing with the newer mundane authorities. Being more pro Greek is certainly the obvious way to go, the only way the Latins really have a chance is through the combined facts that 1) Their approaches are more the standard for Great Tribunals, and 2) they have something resembling influence with the new authorities.
But this is becoming a digression.

Some sites from the tribunal book that caught my eye as potential locations for a new covenant.

The city of Patras (on the northern coast of Achaea), although not specifically listed in TSE, offers a variety of potential sites. It was originally founded from three villages, one of which was named Antheia after the mythological figure of the same name (she could serve as a patron for the covenant). It contains the ruins of a Roman Odeon, an open-air theatre which could have a magical aura. There was also a Roman amphitheater, where there could be ruins oir catacombs useable as the site of an aura. The city is the seat of the Barony of Patras and is a Latin archbishopry. The city are fairly rich, with strong trade in a region that has numerous farmlands. It has also a small swamp nearby, which could be the location of a vis source and/or a magical entity for us to use as a patron.

Mount Cyllene is also in Achaea, between Patras and Corith. It is supposedly where the god Hermes was born. The mountain probably has caves and valleys that could have a magical aura. It is, however, farther from mundane settlements. TSE mentions that the maga Celaenea of House Bonisagus has a covert laboratory there and is trying to divine the character of Hermes so that she can uncover the roots of magic itself.

The city of Corinth (TSE p.61) also offers quite a few possibilities. There was a temple to Aphrodite. There is the old Roman portage road called the Diolkos. The city is named after its legendary founder, Korinthos, a descendant of the sun god Helios (which could serve as a patron).

There is the island of Keos (TSE p.77) in the Cyclades. It is known for its fine sweet black wine, is blessed with many springs, which were formerly home to nymphs until they were driven away by a huge lion, Leon Petrino. The stone lion, seemingly carved out of the mountainside itself, will animate in defense of its island. If it can be bested, stones may be cut from its mane that are Rego vis. Leon Petrino could serve as a patron and a vis source for the covenant.

The Euripus Strait (TSE p.60) in The Duchy of Athens, separates the island of Chalkis from the mainland, Boeotia. The Euripus Strait is little more than a hundred feet across, and can be crossed by a wooden drawbridge. The fierce tidal currents of the strait are unpredictable, changing direction
many times a day, often suddenly. Aristotle attempted to explain this phenomenon logically, but he was forced to admit defeat, throwing himself into the waters in despair and exasperation. The strait is home to the genius loci of the Euboic Sea, which has a great fear that the strait will be filled in, splitting its sea into two. Either the spirit of Aristotle or the genius loci could serve as a patron for the covenant.

The Bay of Thera (TSE p.78) in the Cyclades. The eerily still blue lagoon of Thera is several miles across and is precipitously deep, except for at its very center where the peak of a volcano simmers just beneath the surface. A cataclysmic eruption during the age of the was a result of the final
battle between the titans and the Olympians. Zeus cast the mightiest titan, Typhon of a hundred serpent heads, down into Tartaros. Typhon remains trapped in the volcano at the center of the lake, but he occasionally spews forth a swirling cloud of dust and fire, which ravages the whole of the Aegean Sea. This cloud scatters burning fragments of pumice, which are Perdo vis. The lagoon has a Magic aura of 7. I doubt it would be wise to have Typhon as a patron, but there could be another entity living in the lagoon or on the island. Outside the bay, in the seas surrounding Thera, is one of the most common haunts of the Warrior of the Sea, the Thalassomachos (a faerie). He steals the nets of local fishermenand summons winds to thwart them. However, he does not venture into the bay, and his sudden flight from Thera may herald the imminent arrival of a mighty storm from Typhon.

Personally, I like Patras the most. It is not described in the tribunal book, so we would be free to come up with whatever stuff we deem important for our stories without encumbrance from canon material. It is also far enough from other covenants not to risk too much interference, provides us with local mundane stories, makes travel relatively easy, and has enough space for us to grow. It is in a Latin part of the tribunal, but the local mundane lords are respectful of the Greek population and customs.

My preference is for Peleponesius (Morea/Achea/Laconia/Sparta).
Totally Greek. My character is not going to bother with Latin at all.
Dedicated Purpose: ?
Trade? Security? Driving the Franks out?

I do want to mention that I do not see high powered as being inherently like anime (maybe for faeries...)- in real life you can have power levels of knives, guns, machine guns, hand grenades, rockets or nukes without ever getting results similar to anime.

It seems to me the one thing we agree upon so far is that we favor the Greeks over the Latins, with the major potential division being between the peacemakers who want to bridge the gap and the warmongers who want to kick the Latins out. So do we pick one side of this, or do we allow it to be perhaps an internal division of little relevance most of the time- if the second we should probably have a Greek covenant away from the Latin lands and with a very apolitical purpose.

I think that so long as the stated purpose of the covenant is not about kicking the Latins out, we can live with a covenant located in Latin-controlled lands. A little internal division isn't bad, so long as we all understand (as players) that going out and blatantly trying to cause trouble for the Latin mundane lords is a recipe for disaster. There can be scheming and political maneuvers, if that's the kind of stories some of the players want, but they should be done carefully so as not to be traceable to either the Order or our covenant.

I plan to have my magus to be more proud of his heritage as a Greek than resentful of the current Latin lords. He will probably consider them beneath his notice most of the time, in any case. He is much more interested in crafting his items than in mundane matters. And his potential customers will be other magi rather than mundanes.

I am presuming that even we are Greek-focused, it would still make sense for folks to have Latin, since the bulk of texts we will want for our library will be in Latin?

I would prefer that we not be about "kicking out the latins" either explicitly or implicitly. Individual preferences among magi are of course inevitable.

So we have removed politics from the list of purposes, we seem to be leaning towards a wilderness location, in which case trade doesn't make a lot of sense as a purpose, what does this leave us with?

I rather like the trade focus. I understand some folks wanted remote. I don't particularly care.
Which is why coastal made sense. You can be remote yet reachable.

Actually, TSE states that there are plentiful Hermetic books in Greek in the tribunal. Which makes sense considering the long hermetic history of the tribunal. So our library could be completely composed of books in Greek. If all our magi use Greek, then there is no reason for us to acquire books in Latin, at least initially.

For those who don't have TSE, there are 2 languages called Greek. Living Language: Romaic Greek is the modern language that locals speak. Dead Language: Classical Greek is what the magi use to write books and cast spells. There is a -2 penalty between the two languages. So a magus who was raised with Romaic Greek as his native language can simply raise his Romaic Greek score to 6 and he will be able to read Classical Greek well enough to study magic from it. He needs to raise it to 7 in Romaic Greek to be able to write in Classical Greek. Since that means an investment of 65 xp to be able to write Classical Greek using his Romaic Greek ability. This is still slightly less expensive than learning Classical Greek from scratch to a score of 5, which costs 75 xp.

Of course, an individual magus may wish to know both Greek and Latin. That would require Artes Liberales at 2 to know both alphabets and grammars.

There are politics, and there are politics. :mrgreen:

One may want to play the political game, without having a goal of kicking out the Latins. And many companion concepts become pretty much useless if we decide to go for a remote covenant in the wilderness.

Pretty much the same for me. And we don't even need to be that remote. Proximity to a mundane center brings advantages as well as difficulties. Makes travel easier, provides access to manpower and skill as needed, and increases availability to mundane goods.