Help Build the Ultimate Saga

Hi all. I'd like your help in what will probably be a useless excercise, but I figure might be fun anyways.
I have recently been playing a D&D campaign-at-a-box. The game since died, but left me with the idea of creating an entire Ars Magica saga in the D&D full-campaign style: a premade adventure including specific encouters, complete with creature and NPC statistics, and a full plotline spanning 120 years that starts with magi fresh out of gauntlet and culminates with archmagi changing the face of Mythic Europe.
Even if completed, I dobut anyone would play it through. And I don't seriously think I'll finish it all. But I've been thinking of this Ultimate Saga some, and have some ideas. It's fun. I'd like to share, and hear what thoughts anyone has on the matter.

The main plotline I was thinking of centered around the problem of the expansion of the dominion. As I see it, the ultimate problem of the Order is that the religion of the populace is at odds with Hermetic magic. The dominion hinders working magic, and (worse) devours auras and with it raw vis and magical beings, and (worse) this creates the fact that religious worship and magic cannot abide together, making magic anathema to god.

Accordingly, the PCs in the saga would be required to bridge this gap by choosing from a few possible resolutions for this dillema. The saga will have three stages:

  • Journeyman: The magi get to know the key players, their covenant's soroundings, the problems the rising dominion poses, and the possible solutions.
  • Master: The solutions are put to the test on the local level, and the magi are allowed to choose their allegiance as the ramifications of the different solutions unfold. The magi make allies and enemies, and grow in power.
  • Archmagus: The magi must convince the Tribunal and perhaps other major Hermetic NPCs of the validity of their solution. Following a short period of rapid acceptance in the tribunal, the world reacts and the PCs must defend their solution on a large scale. This stage culminates in a symbolic victory over opposing mundane forces, cementing the long term stability and viability of the solution and giving it credence as an Order-wide policy.

A premise of the saga is that the solutions are viable. The overriding nature of God's power will not manifest directly in a way that will ultimtely prevent any of the solutions, although it may hinder them. This is a metagame decision, which is compatible with the setting but if you don't accept it this plotline won't appeal to you.

There are different solutions, based on different visions of the future. Each is associated with a sin, to provide a unifying thematic element and emphasise the rejection of God. The different solutions are:

  • The Wilderist Solution: Humanity and with it the dominion is huddled in isolated pockets, leaving the bulk an untamed wilderness alive with Magical aura. If this is in the Rhine Tribunal, the hold of the dominion at the heart of the forests is shattered, and the forest spirit is restored to unity and greatness. The smaller Faerie and Infernal spirits are subsumed and dwindle before the Magical.
    This path is associated with the sin of gluttony, for the desire for the greatest possible abundance of magical power lies at its root. As such it is a lack of temperance, showing no moderation or restraint.
  • The Harmonist Solution: The opposite of the Wilderist Solution, magic is restricted to a few areas. Organized religion is prohibited in these places, as it is in covenants and the land they control. Magi are respected as lords of these domains, and are accepted. They may not be liked, but they are accepted - much like, say, Jew moneychangers.
    I think this path is associated with a lack of wisdom, showing recklesness and overconfidence. It is not prudent to present such a constant temptation to the masses or to abolish the worship of god from your lands.
  • Paganism: The Order encourages paganism and establishes it as the dominant religion, replacing Christianity. Magi likely serve as mage-priests. Faerie auras abound, many magical auras are corrupted into faerie.
    This path is associated with the sin of pride. The magi seek to usurp the role of God himself, considering their pagan religion superior to His.

I have originally thought to allow the players to choose from any number of solutions, but that seems to extreme to allow one to construct a meaningful plotline. I narrowed the list to the above, but that still seems too much. Other solutions might be:

  • Divine Magical Religion: Magi discover a magical religion that has a dominion that does not hinder Hermetic magic. Perhaps a magus messiah rises up. This path is very similar to the Pagan Religion path, but less sinful.
  • The Order as a Secret Society: Instead of stopping the tide of rising dominion, this solution accepts it and works around it. This is achieved through Mythic Architecture that allows the construction of artificial regios. The order continues as a secret society living side by side with the mundanes but on another level of reality, secluded in their regios. The natural magical and faerie auras of the world fade almost completely as the dominion envelops them, however, leaving the Order almost without raw vis. It therefore becomes a much more scholarly persuit.
    This path is associated with the sin of sloth. It is a cowardly and unispiring reaction to the chaning world that consists of as little change as possible, and is charactarized by a lack of effort to strive for better and greater things.
  • Divine Magic: The Order embraces Divine Magic, and Catholicism. Pagan sects within the Order are rooted out, and the order is eventually recognized by the holy see and refounded as a monastic order. Magi become accepted and even respected members of society, much like other monks.
    This solution is not associated with any sin, but rather with the virtue of humility. It shows Loyalty and Faith towards god by respecting the pope as a higher authority.
  • General Divine Magic: Magi use Divine Magic but align themselves with no religion, or with a minority religion. They are accepted to a far lesser degree.
  • Magical Religion: The people are converted from Christianity to a "religion" worshipping natural things, Magical things. Perhaps the Bjornaer start awakening the hidden heatbeasts of the mundanes and teach them to venerate their ancestral spirits.
  • The Status Quo: Do nothing. Find no solution, just let things slide. This will lead IMO to the fall of magical and faerie auras and the gradual eradication of the order's covenants, ending in the diminishing and the fragmentation of the Order into a number of secret societies.
  • Escape to Arcadia: The magi orchastrate a "jail-break" and escape on masse to arcadia or some regio, continuing to live in a magical world. This will lead to a high-fantasy Ars Magica future, not set in Mythic Europe at all.

Well, the project is certainly ambitious.

To cover that much time with a gaming group you might want to consider at times when the group is more settled saying that they have 5 years of peaceful time to develop with the 30xp or lab time for a year system.

I think I understand that the main theme of the story is the struggle to survive against the encroaching Dominion.

I think that one element people sometimes miss is that the Doninion is also struggling in the 1200s to survive. Many parts of the european world would go long periods without having a bishop to appoint new priests. Many priests only spent time in convents or larger cities leaving large areas without priests. The later protestant movements in the 1400s was the rediscovery for many of religion as a weekly event.

The mundane world is often the forgotten 5th region in most campaigns. The mundane world attacks both Domminion, Magical, Faerie, and Infernal regions. Areas without active support slowly decay over time and lose their power. The core books say that without a solid constant support of events that a region drops back to 5 or less ( depending on the underlying source ).

Storywise, I also prefer to have a more open enviroment for telling stories than a simple magic is good and dominion is bad.

I prefer to have the struggle being that all the realms are losing ground to the mundane.

The realms may then interact to try to energize their own realms by "robbing" other realms. This makes any action just as likely as the next. The dominion has no more preference to attacking magical or faerie then it does to attacking infernal. It also allows for the dominion to assault itself as it tries to gather power ( "the flock" ) under its control. The dominion is thus more fragmented then a universal whole which is more in keeping with the medieval world.

There is much talk of the Holy Roman Empire but the reality was not really that uniform a control with many different orders of priests and each bishop essentially a seperate "kingdom" ( papal infalibility has not been invented yet and a bishop has the right to appoint anyone they want as priests or choose how customs are observed in their area ). Ireland, Scotland, and England all have very strong differances in how religion is observed as do many other parts of Europe.

I think you will find that this gives more dynamics to any stories told and gives the player's more opportunities to work without feeling like they are doing 120 years of the same thing. With each of the realms more active and dynamic in their behaviour then the magi may try pitting different realms off against each other or helping one realm today and supporting another tomorrow.

You can also have fun stories with faerie verses faerie conflicts and infernal verses infernal conflicts because they are all competing to survive and struggle against the growing mundane which has allegience to none.

This is a great point. Like you, I've always been reluctant to cast the dominion into a good/bad angle in 'competition' with Magic. I don't think historically magic was involved in this sort of 'conflict'.

Having said that, perhaps the 'real' threat is a secular world. A world without either divine or magic, ect. This may be to heady for some troupes, but this is a great idea to consider.

That is a possible direction, but it also sounds fairly White Wolfy to me. Not a killer flaw, but not to my tastes. As for the Dominion struggling to survive: that could as easily be the Dominion struggling to spread. Look back 1200 years more: no Dominion at all, except in the Holy Land. Now it stretches from Scandinavia to Ethiopia, from Spain to Pakistan. Sure, there are patchy spots, but it's doing great, relatively.

And in paradigm, excessive mundanity and disconnection from God may be an invitation to the Infernal. You may not care about sin but sin cares about you.

But I'd note my envisioned Companion is a half-Sidhe minstrel who's trying to create Faerie auras by tricking people into old ritual-like behavior. Someone's fighting back.

I am planning to create about 36 sessions, each structured like a mini-adventure to be concluded in 6 hours. [Not that I expect to complete this, but that's the outline.] Obviously, many adventures and story arcs will span several sessions.
At the rate of two games per month, that means a group could finish the saga in 1.5 years; probably closer to 2 as stories outside the prescribed plot are woven into the saga. I don't think anything longer than this is viable.
With 36 sessions, many of them successive in time, covering 120 years inevitably implies a slow saga. To be exact, I plan to start with a very fast saga as the characters get settled into the covenant and get to know its soroundings, then slow down to a crawl where great spans of time pass between adventures and the magi grow in power, and finally escalate again as the saga spirals into its conclusion. I think this structure is necessitated by the structure of the main story arc, in light of the limited number of sessions.

I do not consider the dominion bad, indeed I think of the Divine as a power of good. However, the dominion and magic are in conflict.

I may be too attached to my own storyline, but I fail to see the promise in a story focused around the threat of encroaching mundanity. First and foremost, it is mundane. I wish to tell a fairly high-fantasy story (remeber the inspiration comes from D&D), and facing saints, angels, divine creatures, miracles, crusaders, and moral ambiguity (as the divine is good) as the fundamental problem seems appropriate. Facing a slow and inexplicable cessation of supernatural powers seems to be a very abstract tale, where the main problem lacks interesting and varied causes and proxies that the PCs can face directly.

Furtheremore, it is I think too melancholy for me. I wish the PCs to eventually be triumphant, to establish a new world order and a bright future for the Order. Instead, they are left fighting over vanishing crumbs against secondary threats. The story should be about how to reverse the tide of the encroaching mundanity and dominion, not about how to survive in this hostile atmosphere. Other sides and interests should certainly be a part of the saga, but the main story should revolve around resolving the fundamental problem.

The Divine provides tangible rules for establishing and spreading the dominion, which allow the effects of the PC's actions to be evaluated in-game (barring direct divine intervention). I think this is very useful for both players and SG, as a base from which to design the dominion's downfall.

What mechanism do you suggest for the increasing mundanity? How can it be hindered in-game, and how can it be reversed? What tangible opponents and situations will the PCs face when attempting to resolve the fundamental problem?

The Mundane exists as a backdrop for the other realms. It is the canvas upon which the realms are applied - as such it doesn't encroach, it is simply there if no realm has an aura of 1 or more...

The main problem for magi seems to be that the best places of magic are the perfect places of untouched nature... And those places are being lost to development or overvelmed by other realms...

Yes, the mundane world is the backdrop.

You fight the mundane by getting people to actively believe or act in a way that essentially promotes your world vision.

If people follow a magical outlook then the area will shift towards magic.

If people follow a faerie outlook then the area will shift towards faerie.

The suggestion of the half-sidhe trying to get people to follow faerie customs is a typical example.

This is why the dominion can often be seen as very harsh against those that very from the dominion philosophy. Doing something different weakens the strength of their aura which reduces their power over time in an area. Doing something "correctly" increases their power.

This pattern can be used to explain crusades to why out the "heretics" that contaminate the dominion.

It also allows you to explain why Rome had the crusades against Jerusalem to sack Jerusalem for the dominion aura that is drained off in relics ( divine vis ? ) and transfered ( recovered ) to Rome.

The Templars can then cause problems for the Dominion as they ran off with some of the relics during the first crusades which Rome now pursues to get back.

When it comes to descriptions of Angels, most of the description appears to be of a defensive organization. For example the Virtue of Guardian Angel is adding to your Soak total and giving some magic resistance if you have none. The essence of free will prevents the divine from crusading in human lives. The essence of the golden rule prevents those truly of faith ( those able to work miracles and summon angels ) from actively attacking those that do not harm them.

The dominion can claim self-defense against the infernal because the infernal often is directly attacking but the magic and faerie based realms usually are not active in their attacks which means that a truly faithful person would not bother with them.

A lesser faithful person would be jealous of the other groups and send regular troops against the faerie and magic realms which may then be guarded by angels and miracles of truely faithful types.

The 1.5 to 2 years with 36 sessions sounds like a good base.

I would though point out that for the view point of the divine that there should be waves of activity as the lives of divine people are much shorter than magi.

Given a regular person starts suffering aging at age of 35 and they likely don't reach much in the way of a position of power until they are in their middle to late 20s ( depending on their blood relationships and money with regards to the church ). That likely gives them ten to fifteen years at a time when someone is in an active threat mode to direct troops or a crusade against the magi before fading from the scene.

While sometimes a person that follows might be more aggressive there will be times when the next person is less aggressive. They may even forget the whole issue. Consistency in action should be the divine's problem because of the short life compared to magi, faerie, and demons.

OTOH the Divine is backed up by the most immortal being ever. If He wants consistency he can get it. If he wants a useful saint to live 900 years like Methuselah, he can get it.

I don't think a magical outlook would increase magic auras; Magic is defined as the one human-insensitive realm, in 5e. Actual Magical activity is said to increase aura, but not peasant beliefs; if that had any affect it'd go to a Faerie aura somewhere.

Hmm. Magic areas are closer to Platonic perfect Forms. Perhaps if you could get people to actually live out more "perfect" lives somehow, then Magic might increase. It'd be a matter of behavior, not beliefs. And not perfect relative to Divine law but to whatever a person was: a more perfect saint, assassin, husband, woodcutter... good luck with that.

But that does make me wonder if some philosophies and low-theism religions -- Stoicism, Epicureanism, Zen Buddhism, varieties of Taoism or Confucianism -- might be Magical, or have Magical aura effects if implemented. Philosophies where the focus is not on worshipping God or believing in humanoid supernatual beings but on living a more perfect life and appreciating nature.

(I'm simplifying, of course -- Stoicism in fact taught of an omnipotent God, though not a jealous one like the Hebrews had, and anything said about the Eastern stuff should probably be defensively labelled as Mythic unless you do good research. Epicureanism is the only one I've studied at any length.)

So is the plan to produce a big ol' PDF for others to use, or what? 'Cause I'll help on that score. :slight_smile:

After all, I just got done saying, "Ars Magica needs more adventures for folks to use."


This may merit it's own topic. I don't want to sound like a jerk, but you really feel this way?

While I'm a fan of Broken Covenant of Calebois, and I suppose Festival of the Damned, I'm not a huge fan of Ars Adventures. They typically can not account for the nuances of my campaign, be it setting, time, or storyline. My observation is this would likely be the case with any campaign. The work involved to alter material to fit into my or anyone's game world is something that frustrates me.

I am much more interested in story ideas or plot lines. I've always been a fan of the Tribunal books and numerous ideas inside. Even when I dislike a Tribunal book, and there are a few I'm not a fan of. I still find story material in them I can pull out and place in my game. I find these open storylines are much more easy to 'fit to game' over the specifics of an adventure. Perhaps I'm a minority on this subject, how do others feel?

I hear ya. Power levels vary, story ideas are a good thing, etc.

But. Most of what's out there right now is for an older edition. There aren't many stats floating around for ArM5. And, the kicker for me is, what is the Ars newbie supposed to run, exactly? There should be a couple of quick-start adventures for them.

I'd rather not see Atlas doing ArM adventures...although maybe something like Living Lore would be, I'm really just saying more of us should be posting our stuff for others to use. That, and the audacity of trying to make something as big as the thread implies, is what got me to volunteer to help. :smiley:


Fair enough.

My big Ars Magica adventure that I've toyed with for years involves a Pater realizing he is going to die and asking their old student to tour the various Domus Magni with them.

The original idea was way back when I was convinced the Tribunal books would never be finished. One book could quickly cover all the Tribunals and Domus Magni as well tell a tale that dealt with the begining and end of a mage's career. It would deal with issues of lineage and duty, and would introduce a storyline/conspiracy that is only apparent to someone who is traveling across the Order 'quickly'. By visiting the numerous Domus Magus the characters begin to see a 'big picture' the rest of the Order isn't aware of.

So that's my vauge 'big' idea.

I have a couple of ideas that I was planning to use with a saga that was starting to get going.

Unfortunately, has not been available for access since some time on Friday which is really bothering me as it was a great roleplaying site.

It was a spring covenant that a friend of mine had conceived but I was supplying some of the saga story threads. If does not look like it is coming back then I would be happy to post some of the story lines here.

I also think Ars Magica could use more adventures. Not that none are provided - there is Calebais, and Guardians of the Forest provided something there too. Still, precisely because different people have different tastes it is best to have the widest array of adventures possible. I know from my experience with D&D adventures that I don't like a lot, but even these often give me ideas and plot lines.

I doubt if this project will ever be truly completed. From my experience, it is not practical to finish something of this scale as a fan project. If any tangible fruits come out of this, I would be happy to distribute them of course (in pdf or any other form).
A thread or wiki entry for plot lines and ideas is also a great idea, regardless of this "ultimate saga" project.

After thinking about things, I decided the biggest problem with designing a plotline is that I'm not sure what direction the players will want to go in. So I'm gonna open a new thread asking players what they want.

PhiliAtlas. If you return to you will see they are experiencing 'technical difficulities'. It would see that the server is being physically moved from one coast to another. After it's moved, the information is being transfered to new better hardware. Customer service did not chose to inform anyone of this and numerous people are rightfully angry with this process. It would see that when the technical difficulties are over come, the board should reappear.

I miss it to, I'm involved in a rockin Feng Shui PBP

Thanks Tuura for the info on

I have been checking twice a day and all I get is the msn explorer message site not found.

At least I know that there is now hope of a return to good PBP and ability to get back the D&D Naruto campaign I was running and get the Ars Magica storyteller campaign back going. I also had a couple of others that I enjoyed playing a character.

Well, I guess I continue to use the down time for story development :bulb: