Covenant Development

I looked at the description of the covenant that Pralix posted and figured we will want to discuss some details.

First, did a quick search about the area and there is a village called Lavoûte-Chilhac is quite close to Chilhac to the west -- about 2-3 km distant. Wikipedia indicates that these is a priory there, called Sainte-Croix de Lavoûte-Chilhac. The priory's construction was completed in 1040 and it owned about 300 hectares of land, so it would be a significant entity in the region. Does it exist in the saga?

From the size of the village (population 89), establishing a covenant may have a significant impact on the locals. If we have 5 magi, that probably means 20-30 mundanes to support them. How will we feed them? How will we establish sources of income without interfering too much with mundanes? We need to start thinking about that. A few possibilities come to mind, such as mining, sheep-related industries (spinning or parchment-making), or farming (probably after clearing unused land). Most of these require some sort of rights to be granted to us from the nobility. These sources of income need not be located at the covenant site itself.

Now, there is the site of the covenant and the aura. How large is it? If it is centered on a ring of stones, that may limit how much buildings we can set up. Unless there are caves? We may have to build downward into the ground, particularly if we want to stay unconspicuous. The privacy of the site will need to be taken into account, since we will only be 1 km from the village and local shepherds probably move their flocks nearby. Unless there are legends related to the stones that keep the locals away?

We don't have to have the priory, or we can make it a minor house. Remember: I want us to be able to develop characters between adventures, so a big bad neighbor is not something I fancy.

I thought of the covenant as a place masquerading as an eccentric sheep farm. A few (sturdy, healthy) houses, a few real shephards and servants (less than <20 all non magi together). 4 or 5 bodyguards/toughs included. I thought sheep would make a good source of income. A few CrHe spells to produce food for the winter, and a few CrAn spells (not rituals) to help with animal diseases or ReAn wool processing can explain why you are so productive. You may discover another vis source or two over the year, so you can still build fancy labs. Items can help to reduce upkeep.

As soon as you start putting up wizard's towers or castles, or start something grand, people will notice.

The priory can also have a light hand in ruling its lands, much more turned inward than interested in meddling with the other local. It all depends on the personality of the prior. And it is, after all, a monastery. So it could be in a recluse phase of its history.

Magi suffer from a severe limitation when trying to set up their labs without drawing undue attention. The size of even a standard-sized lab alone is about the same as what would normally be used to host a decent-sized family (parents, children and grand-parents). So 5 magi need the space usually required for 25 people just to set up their labs. That doesn't even consider the living quarters of the magi, space for a library, etc.

And, by the ruleset from Covenants, 5 magi with 5 grogs require a support staff (servants and teamsters) of 11. No specialists at all, nor any companion. It doesn't even include people needed to generate income. So we are talking about a settlement of 21, with buildings large enough to normally host almost three times that number. So the covenant would be almost as large are Chilhac itself, meaning it would be almost impossible not to draw attention to itself.

That's why I mention two elements that might help keep us unconspicuous. The first is to delocate our income-generating assets to a secondary site, for example if the covenants has the rights to something nearby (a small mine, a mill or anything else), this doesn't have to take place at the covenant site. The second element is to build down into the ground, so that the space used for the labs be less obvious. The pre-existing presence of caves would help, as it would not require one of the magi to be a Terram specialist. Although hiring a specialist to do it for us is an alternative to that.

Underground labs may be an option. They are pretty expensive though until you create artificial lights.
Or you can create an illusion that hides the place partly. A circle spell may help.
Or you use some ward or mentem spell to make people go elsewhere or forget about it. You'd have to find a backdoor for the redcaps, of course.

Sure, there are plenty of ways to hide from or mislead mundanes about the actual size of the place. But we'll need to know more about the physical location, as well as how the aura is shaped, before we can determine what we can do.

I'm just trying to think ahead, because I doubt we'd simply go wandering around and stumble upon the aura, and suddenly decide to found a covenant there, without some sort of planning. If the magi are all just out of Gauntlet, then either they weren't the ones doing the planning, or that will occur when the game starts. Which one is it?

(Not trying to entrap you with those questions. Just working my way through how the saga will start. :stuck_out_tongue: )

Your thoughts are helpul. Immensely soh.

Bastion seems to be a local (dependent flaw, native language).

Here's my idea: He knew of a magic site because he grew up close to it. He wanted to use found a covenant next to where his family lives (they are stubborn and old and unwilling to relocate). He didn't think it a good idea to pull this off by himself. So he needed other magi. After an apprenticeship of 15 years, he had enough of being a junior magus, so was against sharing his dream with older magi. Instead, he started looking aound for magi that fulfilled two criteria: 1. They had to be young enough not to lord it over him, 2. he didn't want troublemakers.
So he recruited a fellow Bonisagus, and a member of House Guernicus (and maybe a Criamon pacifist) and a Tremere illusionist (also a "stable" house, and someone who could misdirect nosy neighbors), and one other (quite possibly a cat's magus, if s/he comes up with a character).
He also asked around inthe tribunal for support and found it in both Castra Solis and Aedes Mercurii (Castra Solis wanted the tribunal to have a presence in Auvergne and Aedes Mercurii didn't want a new covenant to be indebted to their enemies - among other reasons). Rather than having to borrow, he received a gift of some money and vis - enough to establish the covenant and hire some people + cast whatever rituals are needed in year 1 (Aegis? Illusions to hide them?). This might also include lending Bastion items to create caves or subterranean passages (a PeTe rod) or a casting tablet to hide it somehow (which should quickly be replaced by a spell, because casting tablets are dangerous: botching a high level ritual is no fun).
Officially, it is Bastion who has planned all of this and gotten the supply (advised by the sponsors from Castra Solis and Aedes Mercurii). You (as players) do not have to worry about the gritty details like thatching your houses. The game will start with all the spells cast for year one and the buildings set up. People have been hired. You'll probably spend the first two seasons setting up your labs. The covenant has a quaesitor who can witness its foundation (that is one reason why he was invited). The first story is travelling to the tribunal in summer 1221 to announce your existence. This gives you enough time to prepare for it (6 seasons) by setting up your labs, by inventing a spell or two, writing a book or two or binding a familiar, whatever...

I do not care how the site looks in detail, but:

  • the dolmen should be at the heart of the aura (the exact size or shape is not important to me; whatever works)
  • I find that a castle is boring (major), Towers are boring (minor)
  • the same goes for a regio (major boring, the lazy way out)

This is why I liked your underground idea. Work out any other stuff you start with*. This is about starting with a humble but fully functional covenant, one that can grow over the decades.

  • if you have a fun way to hide it, I might even give you a second vis source to pay for the costs of a yearly ritual.

I'm sure the others will start to pipe in soon, but here are some further ideas.

If you are willing to modify the site a bit, I would go with something quite similar to Calebais. The aura could be centered on a deep depression in the hill, essentially a wide well (itself surrounded by standing stones, if you insist on having them). It could be have a bad reputation with the locals, since sheep and people who fall into the well (because of the treacherous ground) often die or suffer grevious injuries. Legends from the "Well of Bones" or "Well of the Damned" or whatever other name would have been what attracted the attention of the magus who discovered the aura. (The might even be huge fossilized bones at the bottom of the well.) The vis source would be the concentration of the rays of sunlight (or moonlight) at the bottom of the well at the solstices.

We could build stairs into the walls of the well and then dig chambers horizontally to host the labs and living quarters of the magi. A fairly simple Imaginem spell (D:Ring perhaps)could hide the stairs and conceal the existence of the stairs and chambers from the outside. Mirrors could be installed that would deflect light from the well deeper into the chambers. We could also build one or more small houses near the well for covenfolk or grogs as a cover ("crazed new shepherd families who raise their sheep near the dangerous well"). Add a good fence around the well to keep the sheep safe. One of the houses could even hide a secondary (or even the primary) entrance to the underground complex.

We could start the saga with only a few houses and some of the basic chambers dug out and add to/expand them (cautiously) as time goes. The Imaginem spell would quickly be replaced with a more reliable (and less fragile) enchanted item. And if the enchanted item initially used to dig the starting chambers have been returned, then we'd need to enchant another one (using a lab text of the original?) to further expand the chambers. Add in a few smokeless sources of heat and light, a few judicious applications of Chamber of Spring Breezes, and you have a pretty good hiding place for magi. Provided you keep traffic to and from the covenant fairly discreet. There might be some rumours, but these should be manageable if we treat the locals well.

We'd probably need a full-time stoneworker to maintains the chambers and stairs in good condition, but that is part of the basic upkeep of a covenant's structures anyway.

EDIT: A while ago someone had posted a link to pictures of a real-world Calebais, the initiation wells at "Quinta da Regaleira" in Portugal. If you d a search on that you'll fin some nice images. :smiley:

Question - any particular reason why it needs to be hidden, as opposed to simply "reserved", or "unassuming"? In canon, magi are a known '4th estate' of mythic Europe. As such, "there are some scholars setting up shop a couple of miles yonder" isn't particular cause for alarm - or at least, not alarming in and of itself. Adding in a castle? Sure - that's a military outpost, and something that the local lord would have concern about. And there will be concerns about getting taxed by both the local lordship as well as the church; but in and of itself, I'm not necessarily seeing a need to be so secretive.

Similarly, the Church is quite aware of magi and the Order of Hermes, and doesn't (in and of itself) have an issue with it - so having a priory nearby shouldn't, in and of itself, be an issue. While it can be a minor story issue, by default it would probably be as much of an issue as having a local lord aware - for good and for ill. Or, as Arthur mentioned, it can simply be part of the backdrop landscape.

I do like the idea of having a fortified manor house, (or perhaps a fortified, roman-esque villa, with a large open courtyard) that sits atop the area.


It reminds me of the Heidenloch in Heidelberg, a 56m deep hole carved by the Celts.
The dolmen could easily be discarded and replaced by another vis source (see below).

The central well is natural, volcanic, in the middle of a small Caldera (depression). It was adapted by the Celts:

Natio est omnis Gallorum admodum dedita religionibus, atque ob eam causam, qui sunt adfecti gravioribus morbis quique in proeliis periculisque versantur, aut pro victimis homines immolant aut se immolaturos vovent, administrisque ad ea sacrificia druidibus utuntur, quod pro vita hominis nisi hominis vita reddatur, non posse aliter deorum immortalium numen placari arbitrantur (Caesar: De Bello Gallico, 6.16.1-3)

So the Celtic worshipped Belenus (God of healing) there. The druids offered him sacrifices (both animals and humans). The covenant can get up to 10p of vis per year by pushing victims down the well (An or Co vis, depends on the victim). The vis can then be harvested from their smashed bodies. If you construct stairs, you are advised not to block this fall completely, because the locals know that sheep falling into the well serve "to feed the mountains". Human sacrifices are no longer en vogue. Nobody knows for sure what happens if the mountain is no longer fed...
The aura is magic 3, and drops by 1 every year in which neither an animal nor a human falls/is pushe dinto the hole. On the plus side, the aura is attuned to Co, giving a +1 bonus to all CrCo activities inside the aura ("Belenus blessing").

I love this site:
1.) because it is unusual
2.) because it is beautiful (well, the site in Portugal is)
3.) because it can start small and grow
4.) because it doesn't upset the neighbors (@Kevin: the saga is called "Solitude", and it is supposed to include decades of uninterrupted study. That is why the site MUST be hidden somehow)

An easy minor source of income is Salt, assuming that we have some form of magical transportation: it's trivially easy to make (magically) out of seawater (ReAq..of 2 or 3, I think, and a PeAq of...4?); in looking at the French "salt gabelle", we're right before the time in which the infamous salt monopoly/tax will start to be enforced. (

Even just making our own, for the number of people living here, will be a major cost savings. That being said, "salt smuggling" may end up being a crime (or not), depending on how we play it out.

EDIT - or, if there's a salt bog nearby, we could just use that, as apparently that's a perfectly valid evaporation source for inland salt-makers.

Ah - so it's an in-game reason, then: that is, by definition, the folks that are coming here are people who, for whatever reason, don't want to be bothered even by the normal standards of "living in a covenant in mythic Europe".

Which is fine - in that case, we should probably establish what would NORMALLY happen if it was just a standard covenant plopped down in the area, and then determine what steps should be taken to avoid those issues (or at least mitigate them.)

Hm. How expensive would a flying cart be to have? Actually - what's the vis/library/enchanted item setup going into this looking like? ie, do we have anything, or are we quite literally starting at "you've got an aura!"

Which is fine if it is, as that's an interesting plot point. But are we brining ANYTHING due to the political support from those other covenants? or is that just barely enough to justify the existence of the covenant itself?

I ask because I've found flying carts (or even just flying platforms in general) useful in the past as a plot device - they allow the magi to travel regionally without having to make elaborate travel plans, and they also allows the covenant to have a regular supply run without having to notify the locals - mainly by flying at night (and with a judicious use of Cat's Eyes). They can also be used in construction as a sort of magical crane.

Of course, that may very well be something to look into at a later date, if we can't have it to start.

Salt is an interesting source of income, for a coastal location.
The location is in a volcanic region, and is 250km from the sea (one week if you walk, says google maps).

Ther eis a list of suggestions in covenants. I'll read it through.

Yeah, hence the "if we have magical transportation" qualification on that. :slight_smile: The default flying cart/stone slab/giant bird/whatever is ~40 mph, I believe. (TME, pg. 111)

Although if we have that, then it becomes more a "high value smuggling operation, which happens to include salt" - seriously, some of those price disparities get insane (crazy-cheap in Brittany, x10 if you go to the next county over) - but I think that's more in the 15th century, rather than 13th.

Oh, I just noticed this TME actually has a discussion of salt production via magic, on pg. 119, including costs and production and whatnot. Looks like they use ReAq craft magic, rather than "naturally evaporate water" effect. Has a hefty Finesse roll associated with it, as well - but totally worth it if you can find a market for a 1/2 ton of salt, (~60 mythic pounds per casting.)

Wouldn't teleporting the salt be less obvious than using a vehicle?
I'm not really opposed to salt if it makes you happy. It does feel a bit odd to have your grogs work so far away from the covenant.

Mechanically, it won't make much of a difference in this saga.

Oh, I'm just throwing out ideas, mainly; the salt one's usually just what I start with, as it's high-value for low-effort: 1 day's worth of work a day to fly out to the coast, load up the cart, and fly back.

Salt teleportation would certainly work, although it's a specialized spell - ReTe lvl 30 or so. In contrast, a flying cart (or rock slab) is a nice generalist magical enchantment (lvl 25 for the whole thing) that can be used for a variety of purpose - it's like having a helicopter or Runabout for the covenent. Also, using it doesn't cause Warp in the thing you're moving. Although to be fair, that's more of an issue with ReCo teleportation effects...