"Entry level" covenant book: ROLL CALL


Ars Magica 5th edition does not have a covenant book like Mistridge (3rd ed) or Triamore (4th ed). According to David Chart’s feedback from Atlas, they do not sell well and so have been vetoed by Atlas Games. So far so good. Still, I and others think that a covenant book could be a good book.

The reason is that Ars is quite demanding on a troupe. The creation of a covenant and immediate mundane area is quite a lot of work, so having a “launching pad” can be useful. The nearest thing that exists in 5th edition is the Curse of the Rhine Gorge saga seed in the Guardians of the Forests tribunal book. I find that great, but does not define a covenant. The idea of this book is to define one.

This should be especially useful for a new troupe. A new troupe is likely to be still trying to imagine all the options that magic offers and to cope with the richness of the setting. The idea is to give them the ground work for them to launch a saga for free or almost for free (depending on it being a Sub Rosa product or a download somewhere).

This is a roll call for people willing to contribute :slight_smile:

Basic parameters so far to be discussed:

    I would go for Rhine or Stonehenge. Rhine is the base official setting. Stonehenge is the last pre-5th edition tribunal to come out and is fairly standard (and has no stats, so is 100% edition-compatible). Both are available in electronic format, so hunting references down should not be difficult for a new troupe just coming into the game.
    I would go for Stonehenge myself since the Rhine gorge already includes significant amounts of potential covenant descriptions (even if no stats).

    The covenant description and setting must include options to tailor it to the troupe’s wishes. Boxed text that tells you what would happen if you decide to make the covenant highly defensible, for example, or on the contrary, highly vulnerable; what would happen if you embroil yourself in the local politics, suggested locations for a relocation to another of the published tribunals, etc etc.

    This is not necessarily very explicit. Nothing on the scale of the Rhine gorge or the great supernatural fight in the northern sea, buit some kind of saga arc could be cool to have.

    I like Triamore's book design. A region and back-story are described there. The region is broad enough to be relevant (Mistridge was just a backwater corner) and interesting, and the detail is good enough to set stories aplenty. I like that.

    Early summer, so the covenant is already established, but not overly powerful. Suggestions to scale it back to Spring (the PC are the ones setting it up) but suggest that entry level is better with the foundations already laid in.
    Not a lot of NPC magi. Probably only one that is the one recruiting the PC. Making him reclusive or a seeker is a good idea to prevent him stepping up and solving everything instead of the PC. One or 2 other founders just perished and this is why the other magus is bringing the PC in. None of them had apprentices yet, so all the players are discovering the covenant together.

Suggested labs that fit the interests of the PC. 2 or 3 labs already existing that were left by the departed magi: a forge, an underground cavern, a high tower…. So players fit in well.

    Medium. 750-1000 Build Points

  2. STATS
    Stat it as per Covenants book as well as per the core book alone.

    There should be boxed text on how to use magic to improve the covenant, bit defensively, as a living place, and ways to generate extra income.

Well there is 'Semita Errabunda", but I agree that the game could possibly benefit from more support in this area.

The problem as I see it, however, is that for such a Covenant Book to be broadly applicable, it must also be fairly generic which is going to limit the book's appeal somewhat. Doing it as a free web release helps in this regard, but I still think some efforts should be make the sample covenant unique even as we try to make it accessible to the masses.

In any case, what exactly are you envisioning - classic tower in the forest?

Similar, but not the same. More integrated in society. Semita Errabunda disregards local stuff almost completely. It reads more like a Tardis covenant than a normal covenant: no links to society, jump from point to point... That makes it quite rare, not a general covenant.

As I would make it:
A farmstead near the coast. The magi have built a mystic tower that appears like good construction mundane work (a better version of the basic spell). A manor house has been built adjacent to the tower. Around it, a series of wooden structures with stone foundations have been erected. The whole complex is inside a stout palisade. It appears as a wealthy farm with a palisade and structure to protect against raiding, something fairly common in the region.

The central manor house hosts the magi. The tower is home to three sanctums and the library (top floor). The base level is used for storage and guard. There is also a cellar used to store the vis and magical stuff. There might be 1 or 2 labs coming from the cellar.

Adapt the covenant to fit with the players. If they want a magical forge, one of the disappeared magi had one in his sanctum since he was a smith. If they want a cavern sanctum, one is available through the cellars.

The farm takes advantage of a pre-existing hill fort, that grants an aura of 4. The magi are not quite sure why this is the case.

The farmstead would be contracted from a not-so-near monastery. Story hook when the friendly abbot dies and the not-so-magic-friendly new abbot steps in.

Depending on location there will be more or less social interaction in the way of cattle raids (Wales or near Wales, or near Scotland) or just people passing nearby. A fortified (well, strong palisade) farmstead is always a target for raiding since it tends to have cattle nearby.

if no raiding, it will be on a trade route and the contract with the monastery forces them to provide hospitality to travellers. Nobles will expect to be housed in the main building (the covenant proper).

The covenant owns a boat and a pair of skiffs.
It has secured rights to fishing and herding in the area, even if they do not own arable land.

But of course all this can be easily changed. :wink: And I am sure it will. For starters, I have not read the covenants book in a while, and you can milk location ideas from there for sure.

I would also like to make most of the adventures presented in TOME and similar readily playable for this book, so location needs to be consistent with that.

As mentioned on the original thread, I'm willing to contribute.

Note that this could be done by way of a wiki. We simply need to structure the wiki in the same way as the Triamore book was structured. I think that a forum like this one is a poor choice for editing pages and discussing the various parts of the covenant. The wiki doesn't need to be fancy.

I think would should use standard values for much of the covenant, with options detailed for higher or lower values. For example, you mention an aura of 4, where Covenants says that the standard aura is 3.

A coastal covenant has some challenges for the storyguide, as it opens up the possibility of far-and-wide travel being easily accessible. A river or a small lake is less problematic in this fashion, while still offering the possibility of access to the sea.

I also think that Stonehenge is a good idea for locating the covenant.

Anyone could point me out to a "wiki for dummies" instructions? Thanks :slight_smile:

River it is, then.


It is a tutorial about writing Wikipedia articles. It covers more than what is needed to create pages on a wiki.

If you want, I can set up a wiki on Referata for the projet. I've used the site for 3 different sagas so for, and it's fairly easy to use. And it is free for up to 100 MB (which is a lot more than we'll need).

We just need a name. Probably that of the covenant?

There is also the User Help content for MediaWiki: mediawiki.org/wiki/Help:Contents

Count me in, as much as my spare time allows for it. (I'll have to dust off my copy of Heirs to Merlin, though... I haven't read it again since it was released).

If we want to make the covenant slightly more "social" than the average "tower in the forest", locating it in a river (and near a ford, for instance) could also give us a nice income source as toll-gathering, which could also provide for lots of story seeds (of the usual "the story comes to the covenant" kind). The access to far-and-wide travel is still there, even though slightly less accessible, but there are as many opportunities for stories from people crossing the ford as the SG deems adequate...

I would actually argue for the Rome Tribunal and designing an updated Vardian's Tomb. It takes the advantage of a huge amount of local background being available on the internet for the city of Rome, and it's catacombs being the centerpoint. It also makes sure it has a completely different feel to the rural, tied into noble relationships that both Triamore and Mistridge had.

If we take my suggestion of Vardian's Tomb, I would suggest making the baseline that the 3rd edition setting competition between the Jerbiton and the Ex Misc Necromancers is resolved, but the surviving ruling magi who invite new Magi to bolster their winter covenant be whichever side the troupe chooses and write up possibilities for each.

I found the winter covenant with a couple or single magi needing help bringing it back to spring is a cliche, but it worked well in Triamore amongst other books.

Looking at a map and researching locations in England, to see what popped up. Here's a potential location.

In West Sussex, along the River Arun. There is a Roman road going from Chichester to London (which is now called Stane Street) crosses the river Arun at Pulborough. This fording place was used by cattle drover making their way to London. There was a Roman mansio (way station) nearby (Hardham), but also a manor house at Stopham 1.5 miles west.

The source of the Arun river is St Leonard's Forest, which is said to have been inhabited by a dragon, slain by Saint Leonard in the 6th century.

Arundel Castle lies along the river Arun, half a day's march south. The castle was established in 1067 and was the stately home of the Duke of Norfolk. The town of Littlehampton lies south, a small fishing village.

Looking at the map of HtM there is a large "hermetic hole" with no covenant sin the middle of England. Since I want war to be a possibility if the party wants to, and mountains are always cool, I think Cheshire can be a great place to set up a covenant :slight_smile: The river Dee has a large estuary in case the magi want to go downstream and take a ship from there.

I suggest [b]Aldford /b as the location. There was a motte and bailey castle overlooking the place, but we can always ditch that and have the covenant taking care of the ford. No need for knights when you have spells. The impoertant feature as said is the ford over the river Dee. And the fact that it is a frontier between Wales and England (including the Caer Drewyn Hill Fort,m a perfect source of headaches), near the welsh mountains and fairly close to Chester and Wexham. And Watling Street (the roman road) passes by the place.

EDIT: I see Arthur came up with a site earlier :slight_smile: Both locations are good IMO. I prefer the more frontier feel of Cheshire's border, but can adapt easily. Dunno if the English raided each other's cattle.

EDIT 2: Reading the wikis. Thanks!

Project Redcap is an already-established Wiki with lots of contents starting groups may find useful, and already has Atlas' permission to use its stuff (including graphics!), within reason. We'd welcome such an addition.
[size=85]And even if you don't do it on our wiki, we'll link to yours ... :smiling_imp: [/size]

I can't really commit to aiding this project, I'm afraid. I do think it'll be great :slight_smile: I would suggest Avebury, but that has lots of druidish (Diedne?) overtones and isn't on the river banks, so probably isn't up to snuff. It is close enough to Glastonbury to make The Black Monks of Glastonbury useful, even while far enough not to step on its toes. And it has Roman remains (Cult of Mercury ?) as well as "druidic" (Neolithic) ones, and lots of adjoining clearly-magical places (vis sources...).

Redcap.org can be a really great place to store the final product, but maybe development would be better elsewhere? Mi experience with wikis is really small, so no idea about this.

The Rome suggestion of Trakarth is really cool, but I don't know if it fits well with the "standard setting" approach. It is a great saga location, but I am less comfortable with this than with some more common features. The idea is a common covenant after all. I can see the merits of the proposal, though, but I am not sure about it. Maybe we should run a poll with several options? First tribunal, second city/rural, ...

Another option would be to present a less elaborated setting, but provide 4 different covenants fully stated up. They can share most numeric resources (vis income, the books in their libraries, number of grogs, specialists, some characters,...), to show how different approaches can be taken by the same resources and swapping boons and hooks to make unique story environments. Now that I think of it., I really like this idea :smiley: It is quite a lot more work, though, but allows more people with diverse ideas to contribute.

It's a great development environment - with the ability to see differences between versions and who edited what when, revert to older versions, and more. And a wiki is great for putting a non-finished product - a wiki is never a finished product, really. On the contrary - if you want to do it as a final, finished product you have rights over or that looks real pretty - THEN you might want not to do it as a wiki, or at least to render it as a pdf after you're done working out the content on the wiki.

On Holocubierta Forum we need go back to our colective Tribunal creatin, of course this project feels great too. I'll try help.

I'd take a different approach...

Rather than making a big 'saga covenant' book, I'd instead look at creating 3-4 different covenants - a la 'Magi of Hermes' but with covenants, hooks, boons, etc. as a way to get started.

The nice thing about this is it can be used as a starter for a new saga, but it can also be used as a plug-and-play rival covenant or anything else you care to think of.

Unlike Magi of Hermes, each one would be a snapshot in time rather than showing the growth and progression. A series of story hooks about the covenant, and notes on how to insert player magi into the covenant for a saga should you wish to.

This, to me, strikes me as having wider appeal than an entry-level single-covenant saga book. It functions as a jump-starter for new groups, it functions as a reference for older groups and it provides templates for a range of different covenant style rather than just one.

The tower-on-a-hill-next-to-a-faerie-forest should definitely feature, since it does make a good 'baseline' example. But to see things like roving covenants, urban covenants, wildlands covenants, and even more exotic places like flying castles in the sky or underwater covenants would be pretty neat.

I think it might be better to get the first covenant written before arguing if the work should include three other covenants or a saga arc.

Given that the work will eventually be electronic, there's no reason for people not to do both, over time, and even for people who feel strongly about various locations to work on various places, if they wish, to give various ptotential locales to the covenant.

My point is, don't argue scope: write. Get a core of material together. After that, then you can all go after individual targets if you like.

I'm happy to help with this, although I have another idea on the boil, which I'll explain in another post, because my broswer keeps crashing and I've typed this four times already.

What I'm going to work on:

I'm really interested in a particular phenomenon that happens in the Bristol Channel every year. There's a sort of tidal surge which I think would let an Aquam magus who had that flaw, which I can never remember the name of, which makes Flambeaus hang out near volcanoes, study productively. I've been thinking of doing an Aquam book for some time, and have some material together. I also have a little material based on British Goblins by Sykes, which is about Welsh faeries, and Welsh faeries are really easy to write (actually, I have most of them already done, because they can just be reskins of RoP:F).

So, I'm going to talk about putting a new covenant somewhere in the Bristol Channel. I think it's a goodish sort of spot given that Cornwall is empty is ArM4, and Wales is basically Mordor because it has the Old Evil Tremeres in it, and so it has three pages. I'm going to have a lost founder (I'm moving the water maga from SoI to Barry Island) and her laboratory. Lundy island is owned by the Templars, so there's some fun there. I haven't found a perfect spot yet because I haven't done the research, but...that's where I'm going to go.

I'll chip in on this other project, too, once you have all found something that suits you.

I'd be willing to lend a hand too :slight_smile:

As for location, I think that 5th edition Tribunals are best avoided, since one would run into at least one of the following three problems: either have a completely isolated covenant, or have something incoherent with current canon, or put in too many references to copyrighted material. For the same reason, I think that 3rd edition Tribunals such as Rome or Iberia are better choices than 4th edition ones, particularly 4th edition ones that are easily adapted to 5th edition and most people still consider "almost canonical". Looking back at Rome or Iberia, with all due respect, I think that very few people who would base a saga there would take more than just inspiration from the respective 3rd edition book.

So my vote is for Rome. Within the Rome tribunal, I think the best suggestion would be the northeast, and in particular the 50-miles-side triangle between Venice, Verona, and the Dolomite mountains. Why?

  • Roman ruins a-plenty. Alas, many are not ruins even today, and are fully functional, like Verona's arena (basically the local colosseum, where plays and concerts are still held in the modern day). In fact, there are cities in the area like Padua that actually predate Rome (both by modern archeological understanding, and perhaps more importantly, by legend: Padua was allegedly founded by one of the princes of Troy who fled from the destruction of his homeland by the Greeks).

  • Universities. Vicenza's has been founded in 1209 by scholars from Bologna (the oldest in Europe, about 80 miles to the south) that specifically wanted more research freedom and less control by the Church. I've always thought this sounded like a Hermetic maneuver to get all those scribes, scholars etc.

  • A lot of minor squabbling lordlings, free city states, independent church holdings etc. without an overking or "ruling" power. This is extremely important for an "entry level" covenant, I think, because it makes it much easier for a covenant to take an active stand in political and even military matters -- as opposed to a covenant located in England, where there is one king who is the overlord. It also provides a neat checkboard of ready-made, historically accurate political factions.

  • Venice, the gateway to the eastern Mediterranean, who convinced the Crusaders to pay for passage into the Holy land by sacking Constantinople and conquering a quarter of it for the Venetians. Having Venice nearby is great for a starting covenant, because you can justify any sort of wonders (and attached story hooks) coming in from some faraway port. And it also makes it easier to just handwave how your covenant can have any lab equipment it wants, or in fact any mundane stuff -- for a price. And it's the perfect place to locate many mercantile intrigue stories. And it's not all-mundane either, with stuff like the yearly wedding ceremony of Venice to the sea.

  • A lot of wondrous legends, like that of the kingdom of the Fanes at the northern tip of this area.

An excellent point, and well made!

Does anyone have a centralised repository where writing can be put? Google-docs, wiki, whatever? Is anyone voulinteering space?

I would, but I don't have any easily spare space at the moment and Google scares me. :frowning: