[Covenants] Understanding the Immunity Boons/Hook

I am trying to understand the scope of the Immunity Boons (both the Major and the Minor version) and the corresponding Major Hook, from Covenants.

The Major Boon states that "Within the covenant’s aura, all people and objects are immune to a form of damage, influence, or Flaw." What can this encompass? What does "influence" mean in this context? The one example provided is immunity from Lycanthropic transformations, but I wish I had more.

Furthermore, the same Major Boon description states "If players designing characters pair their Flaws to this immunity, it becomes a Major Hook. Their Flaw helps define the covenant’s culture." I assume that not every character needs to be directly paired to this immunity (e.g. in the example above, not every character needs to have the Lycanthrope Flaw) - just enough that it becomes a major defining feature of the Covenant and a source of stories, right?

There's also a Minor version of the Boon (but without the corresponding Hook - by accident or design?). It states "Within the covenant’s aura, all people and objects are immune to a specified form of damage or influence, as per the Virtue." How does this differ from the Major version? The only two differences I see looking at the statement word by word are that it cannot provide immunity to a Flaw, and that this all happens "as per the Virtue" (which Virtue? Greater Immunity? Lesser Immunity?) The one example given is Immunity to (the symptoms of) leprosy, which I'm not sure if I'd classify as a Greater or Lesser Immunity, since I'm not sure how common a hazard it was.

So, lots of doubts. The reason I was wondering about it was that I was thinking of whether it could be used to define a covenant that was "hidden from the eye of Hell": basically (because of some cosmological weirdness) the Covenant and all on its grounds is not only off-limits to demons, it's unknown and unknowable to them, as if it did not exist, never existed and in fact could not exist. Would that be reasonable? In fact, I was thinking of making the situation symmetric so that it also applies to the Divine (note that while God would obviously not be externally limited in this way, he'd self-limit Himself).

I read the Boon transforming to a Hook thing like this. If the Covenant prevents lycanthropes from suffering their curse, and a character has the lycanthrope flaw they don't get out of stories dealing with that flaw. Instead the whole troupe commits to stories about dealing with Lycanthropy and those stories are now likely to affect the covenants way of life. It's a little hard to imagine why a troupe would bother to take the Immunity lycanthopy hook if there weren't lycanthrope PC's so for me this might be a bad example.

Instead take something like Immunity fire. Normally it's just a benifit and therefore a boon. (Though it might make the covenant tricky to light and heat.) But if a PC has an enemy who is a powerful fire spirit, or even a wizard war happy CrIg specialist, then that enemy is now the covonant's enemy and will likely try to besiege and other wise interfere with it's operation.

So, the original Major Boon makes everyone immune to a form of damage, influence or Flaw. I generally take as saying all inhabitants have the equivalent of the Major Virtue Immunity (a particular type of damage or influence) except this also allows you to take immunity to a Flaw. For the example you're thinking of, just think - would you let a player take Greater Immunity(demonic influence)? If you think that is fair, then it's reasonable for the major boon. If you think that's too wide-ranging and powerful, then maybe something more restricted like (demonic possession) or (mind control). Actually, Immunity to mind control has been given to an infernalist NPC in a recent scenario book I read.

In the end, if you can make a cosmological reason why the Divine and Infernal would not influence a place that won't cause the players either go "really?" or try to munchkin the situation ludicrously then it's your saga, you can make it as fantastical or historical as you like.

A Greater Immunity render you immune to something that is both common and deadly.
A Lesser Immunity render you immune to something that is either rare or not deadly.

That I think, is the difference you are looking for.

I see. So you assume that, except for the extra Flaw thing, the Major and Minor Immunity Boons are essentially Covenant-wide versions of the Major and Minor Immunity Virtues? I find this somewhat unconvincing for two reasons.

  1. Why not say so in clearer terms? The wording of the boon seems quite a bit different from that of the Virtue. What does "influence" mean?
  2. Compared to other Boons this seems weakish. Being immune to fire while on the Covenant grounds seems, to me, more of a minor Boon than a major one (compare it with the Unnatural Law minor Boon).

While I would not allow a Greater Immunity to "demonic influence" to characters [EDIT: or maybe I would... see below], I fail to see why a Major or Minor Virtue available only when on Covenant grounds should be "balanced" as a (respectively) Major or Minor Boon. For example, something that gave all characters access to Venus Blessing while on Covenant grounds is clearly underpowered as a Minor Boon. But something that gave all characters access to Inventive Genius would be overpowered as a Minor Boon.

Incidentally, I seem to recall that Immunity to mind control (even non-supernatural "mind control" from e.g. social skills) as a Major Virtue can be found in tC&tC. I'm not sure if I'd consider this blanket immunity to manipulation from any source any weaker than a Virtue that makes demons (and only demons) unable to even "think" about the character. "Demons" seem, after all, a rarer threat than "Manipulation".

If all it is that you don't want to deal with demons in game, that's what I think is referred to in the book as defensive choice better handled with a discussion with the rest of the troupe. Don't spend resources on the stories you don't want to tell. If it's actually going to play a role in the story and makes sense in your cosmology run with it.

Scope is more of a troupe thing than a rulebook thing.

Whatever you like, and whatever you like.

If that works for you it works for you. IMC, it's basically all natives to the covenant, like the people in Journeys End in the Alps.

It doesn't define the culture of the covenant.

What counts as Greater or Lesser is up to your troupe, because you choose the risk profile. Since a lesser and greater immunity have exactly the same mechanical effect, I'm not sure why it matters if the answer is (1+1) or (3-1).

If that's what you want to do, sure, that's reasonable. Reasonable is whatever your table finds interesting. Have you read "Blameless in Abbadon"? I ran a saga based on it once. Basically a mile high corpse crashes into the ocean. The corpse belongs to God, who is now dead. Discuss.

(edit: OK, so that was "Towing Jehovah", not "Blameless in Abaddon".)

Whatever works for you is reasonable. Scope's up to you.

That sounds like a cool book and a neat saga. I'll have to put it on my to read list. I'm reminded of a saga I'd dearly like to run where the Divine and the Infernal pack up and leave mythic Europe. With only Faerie and Magic realms left to affect the world. Hey you used to beable to feel God and the Devil tugging at your soul. But now?

Hmm. Answers like this sound very zen, but are not very helpful. Personally, I also find them mildly irritating.
If I am saying that I do not understand what a book is saying, I'm not looking for an answer along the lines "The book might as well have been blank. It really says whatever you want it to say".

Honestly, I know that the consensus of the troupe trumps any rulebook. But our troupe would like to parse the rulebook to achieve a consensus. The idea is that maybe the authors thought about something that we had not thought about, and that we may want to give some weight to that expert opinion even though in the end we have a final say. Otherwise, why buy a book?

Now, the second sentence is useful! Thanks.

Neither does the Major Boon, if I read the description correctly. It's the Major Hook that defines the culture of the covenant.

It matters in this context, because it gives me evidence about what the Immunity Minor Boon was meant to achieve.
It's a little like asking "What's scrofula? How bad is it?" if the single example of Lesser Purifying Touch were "curing scrofula". An answer like "scrofula can be anything you want, it's your Mythic Europe" is not very helpful.


Well, that's unfortunate for you, then, because that's how it was written. It's not zen. You are asking aesthetic questions like "Is this reasonable?" and frankly that's like going to an interior decorator and saying "Is this room too blue?" The answer is "Do you think it's too blue?" You are the one who has to live with the ugly cushions.

The function of the book is to get your troupe to negotiate a play contract. The reason it's not blank is you may not have thought to discuss being a mystically-afflicted community like the werewolves of ancient Greece. So, there's a shout-out there, to bring it to your attention as a possible concept of play. That's kind of all it is: a system to force discussion by using a scarcity of build points.

Why have the book? To give you options to discuss during your saga design negotiations. If that is of no use to you then, no, there's no point in having the book.


Seriously, my opinion concerning how the rules should be read by your troupe has zero weight.

Well, there you go. In my defence I did write it what feels like a decade ago, so the details may have slipped my mind.

Scrofula can be as serious as you want it to be in your game. It's a certain way, in parts of Mythic Europe, of proving that you and only you have the Divine assent to rule (because Real Kings can cure it by touch). That makes it a huge deal in games where that's a huge deal, and inconsequential anywhere else. You -buying- something as Minor defines it as Minor for your game.

Well, I'm sorry, but the book's not designed to do what you think it should do. Try a more prescriptive system next time? If, for you, the book's useless, then for you, the book's useless. That's some bad luck, there.

Don't worry about how common a hazard it was in medieval europe. Worry about how common a problem it will be in your saga.

Because, for game balance purposes, it's completely irrelevant what the reality was, what matters is what you think the reality was.

Leprosy is a deadly but rare disease in the canonical mythic europe, and an area immune to its influence is likely to attract many lepers... some of whom will be infernalists. And it will be shunned by the general populace. I'd make it a major hook for those reasons. But if that's not what would happen in your saga, it might be a major boon, or even a minor boon.

God couldn't even self-limit in that way under many understandings. But he could still choose not to act, and limit all his servants.

This seems like it would certainly be a saga-defining major boon to me. The hook aspects are removed by making it impossible for them to be aware that they're locked up.

But if your saga isn't going to involve divine or infernal elements at all then it's not even a minor boon. I think that's the point Tim is trying to get at: No matter how major an immunity boon would be in the default saga that can be changed by you simply not using the thing they're immune to.

I do not think it's an apt example.

Instead, it's like going to an interior designer who shows you a bunch of room interior examples for you kid's room. Actually, no, he shows you one example. And you say, "well, I'd like to see more, because I'm building a new house and trying to figure out if a 10' by 10' room is reasonably large for my little kid so I'd like to get an idea of what the interiors typical room would be like."

And the interior designer tells you "Well, reasonable and typical are all up to you. A room is large if your soul feels it's large. This one example is only meant to get you thinking that maybe thinking about the room is important." I'd say it's not very helpful, and I'd say that's not a very good interior designer. But maybe we have a different notion about what advice is.

If that were the purpose of the book, I'd find its implementation remarkably poor. Why come up with numbers about how many mythic pounds lab cost? Why come up with numbers about the typical qualities, levels and availability of summas? Ars Magica is a 2nd generation rpg, it has (some) crunch. It has a certain level of simulationism. Saying "that's not important at all", saying "don't worry about the Art scores, you succeed in casting the spell if it's good for the story, and you fail if that's good for the story" means presenting the game as very different from what it is. It's Ars Magica, it's not Sorcerer.

I must say I like Covenants. Generally, it delivers what I want. I think a few mechanics are fiddly and possibly inconsistent with the rest of the game, and a few passages are lacking in clarity (and this is one). So, when I ask what was written under some ink that has smudged on a page, I'd like an answer like "uh, it was a brief discussion about the fraction of fighting grogs in a covenant". Instead, I find an answer like "Ah, it's all about the smudge. It's meant to get you thinking about the hidden meaning of stuff!" ... weird, not very helpful, and vaguely patronizing.

No. Your opinion is important, like that of all other players and storyguides on this forum. That's really why many of us come here to ask "can this spell guideline do X?" or "how many botch dice does Y entail"? In the end, the consensus of one's troupe is law, but hearing how others see the matters can help forming that consensus. Answers like "in the end, you roll as many botch dice in combat as you think you should roll" are far less helpful than "in our sagas it's one even for tense situations, and it's generally one more for every "complication": swordplay on slippery terrain while trying not to drop the crystal calice in your hand would be a total of 1+2=3.".

Ah! I wasn't aware you had written the stuff, while you probably assumed I was. That may have been the cause for some misunderstandings. I was not asking the author what he meant. I was asking fellow players how they parse the text. Though knowing what the author meant is also useful.

Then why assign point values to stuff? Just list a number of "ideas" that "get you thinking" about what your game will be about, and assign to each a rough rating of how central it is - from 1 to 3 stars, and you probably want to have no more than 10 stars overall to stay focused (but if you do, it's perfectly ok!). Omnipotence is really more important than having nice hair if you want your stories to be about omnipotence, but if having nice hair is what matters, that's where you should spend your points! There are games like this, and some are really nice and fun to play, but it seems to me this is not the design principle of Ars Magica.

As I said, I disagree. If you look at Ars Magica 5th edition without bias, I think you'll agree that it's not a freeform game. It's a nicely refurbished 2nd generation game (and I mean it without offense; the line editor did a fantastic job in "updating" Ars Magica without changing its core outlook).

Right. So, it would be a defining feature of my saga, or I would not have brought it up. It would not be a defensive move.

People seeking shelter from the Infernal-Divine struggle would trickle into this "Tanelorn" kind of place. PCs would go out and try to bring loved ones to this haven, or maybe agonize between forsaking a loved one vs. forsaking the peace of the place. Infernalists would attempt to destroy it (demons and angels are kept out, but not humans touched by them).
In fact, even understanding how such a place came to be would be a source of stories.
And so on.

Would this be a use of the Immunity as a Major Hook consistent with how you envision it from reading the book?

The way you're planning on running it sounds like a major hook.

If the PCs are people who want to get involved in the infernal/divine struggle, I'd be tempted to put it as a boon (it's a safe hiding place). But having the struggle come to them (as infernalists seek a safe spot from the divine etc.) is definitely a hook.

So yes, I'd say that by my reading of the book what you're planning would fall under Major Hook form of immunity; it's a saga-defining feature of the covenant that brings far more stories than it solves.

For what it is worth, "Immunity to Demonic Influence" (with or without symmetric Divine immunity) sounds perfectly reasonable to me.

I would say that if a "significant number" of the important saga characters (i.e. some of the magi and companions) are particularly susceptible to infernal influences, or have personal infernal enemies or allies, diabolic pasts, or even are infernalists, etc, then it is tending towards the Hook. "Significant number" is of course, hard to define; probably it is "more than one character", but maybe it "need not be as many as half of the characters".

If a lot of the saga stories are liable to be "solved" by the fact that the covenant is a sanctuary from demons, etc, then it is tending towards a Major Boon. If it is just something that will occassionally be useful, then it is a Minor Boon. Perhaps, that this why there is no Minor Hook --- it cannot be both important to the characters and not come up often in stories.