When the 'Hooks' open call was first announced, I was determined to submit something wasn't sure what I wanted to do and thus began brainstorming a large number of ideas that I ultimately lacked the discipline to develop seriously much less write until Xavi offered to let me collaborate on his Hook scenario 'Small Game'. Therefore, this November I've decided to present these potential hooks in a modestly expanded form for your enjoyment at a rate of 1 per day for as long as I can manage it. Unfortunately, these won't actually work as introductions to the books described as this truncated format I'm using lacks the requisite amount of detail, but with any luck those who recently purchased the supplements I cover will find some interesting ways to integrate the new book into their existing Ars Magica sagas.
#1. Elementalist (HMRE): This hook idea took advantage of some of the vagueness surrounding the Elementalist rules in Hedge Magic: Revised Edition to introduce a tragic, yet potentially deadly antagonist. The characters are meant to be drawn into this story after a nearby covenant or village is mysteriously wiped out overnight with no trace of physical or magical attack. The antagonist in this case is a Gifted Elementalist (exact tradition doesn't really matter since he will have initiated other verbs and types anyway) who has been driven mad by Warping and now views himself as a servant of the Divine, tasked with purging all wickedness from the world though he refrains from using the Water form in deference to God's promise to Noah.
To achieve his demented ends, the character has assembled a small band of ungifted followers - former beggars he pays with magically summoned silver - each of whom he has initiated into Summoning (philosophical or theurgical) and a single Form. These followers are used as living reservoirs of fatigue, summoning elemental spirits, raging infernos, and howling storms into frangible clay pots in return for the magician's magically summoned silver. While callous and unscrupulous, these men are not wicked and have no idea of the extent of their employer's delusions or what he has been using the magic bottles for. The Elementalist also has the allegiance of a potent Fire Elemental - this being was not summoned and commanded, but has rather been tamed and trained using the rules in Realms of Power: Magic. Alternately, the 'fire elemental' could actually be a demon (perhaps even Adramalech, RoP: TI, pg 50), leading the deluded elementalist and his followers into sin.
The Elementalist's tactic once he has identified a suitable target is to send his tame Elemental in at night carrying as many magic jars as possible each containing the largest and/or most powerful effect his minions can manage. The Elemental then lobs the jars into the target area: since the elemental phenomena within the jars are non-magical and are merely stored within the jars, these can easily bypass both a covenants Aegis of the Hearth and its magi's Parma Magica. Magi do benefit from form resistance and any auram/ignem wards function normally, but if the magic jars don't seem to be working, the Elemental promptly opens other jars containing lesser elementals to cover its retreat.
Due to the Elementalist's madness, his actual actions are difficult to predict and he cannot be reasoned with (unless his sanity were somehow restored which would eliminate any need to negotiate with him). While this Hook, as written, introduces the Elementalist as an enemy, it needn't be so. If you'd rather have friendly contact with the tradition in your saga, it's a simple matter to change the introductory scenario so that, instead of attacking an Hermetic covenant, the antagonist instead destroys a bandit hideout or the camp of an invading army. While investigating the mysterious magical attack, the players encounter one or more Elementalists (possibly apprentices of the antagonist) who are also trying to stop their former friend and colleague who has become a danger to himself and others...
#2. Sahir (TC&TC): This hook idea was almost developed for submission to Sub Rosa and involves the brutal murder of a Flambeau magus well known for his antipathy to Hermetic Sahirs by a pack of jinn. The primary suspect in the murder is a Hermetic Sahira whom the victim had fought numberous Wizard Wars against. She proclaims her innocence and has what seems like an air-tight alibi, but her accusors are quick to point out that she could have easily summoned the jinn in advance and arranged for the ambush to happen at a later time - in any case, there's no evidence of her sigil at the scene (though there wouldn't be if she used sihr to stage the attack anyway), but it might not matter as the deceased magus' filia has already issued a declaration of Wizard's War against the accused.
The hook for this story comes when the player magi are tasked with investigating the murder - this request might come from one of the Sahira's defenders, a detractor seeking actual evidence, or a friend of the slain Magus who doubts the culpability of the accused and wishes to see the true culprit brought to justice. Regardless, the players will have to work fast to complete their investigation before the Wizard's War begins and renders the point merely academic. The site of the ambush is well known to those following the case and isn't hard to find due to the amount of magical devastation. If the PCs arrive early enough to sense magical residue, they find no trace of the Sahira's sigil though the Magus' shows up normally as do some others (those of the jinn involved in the ambush). There were no survivors amongst the Flambeau's entourage and no mundane witnesses, but enterprising magi may be able to find other sources of information.
Mundane plants, animals, and objects have nothing to contribute to the investigation, but any spirits or magical beasts who were in the vicinity can tell the magi that the jinn who slew the Magus weren't known to them and aren't from the area around the Sahira's covenant or the battleground itself. If the PCs aren't concerned about breaching the Code, the Sahira has no memories of participating in or ordering such an attack and a search of her sanctum turns up nothing incriminating, but could give the burglar access to a list of the jinn she can summon.
The real murderer in this scenario is a Gifted Sahir who'd followed the Magus from a recent battle in Egypt where he'd participated in the fourth Crusade, hoping to catch him unawares. Baffled by the unfamiliar magics wielded by the Sahir (who'd learned to utilize indirect attacks against magi), the magus and his followers were torn to pieces by claws of the foreign (and possibly Infernal) jinn summoned up against them. What exact clues lead the PCs to the culprit will vary by saga, but a few possibilities are: interrogating a jinni involved in the assault or discovering the (decidedly non-hermetic) summoning circle used which could potentially be traced back to the real killer. If the SG's intent is to showcase Solomonic magic, a confrontation with the Sahir can provide a satisfying conclusion. Alternately, the murderer could have already set off to the Middle East to more fully introduce the contents of TC&TC. If necessary, the stakes can be increased by having a tractus on Parma Magica (now missing) be among the slain magus' belongings.
Of course, none of this necessarily sufficient to prevent the Wizard's War from occurring. For her part, the Sahira bears no particular grudge against the Flambeay maga, but will defender herself to the best of her ability (she's far stronger than her rival and knows it so she's not unduly concerned). The Flambeau, however, may not rescind her challenge over so trivial a matter as her opponent's innocence. Her strategy is an all-out assault supplemented by all the Vis at her disposal at the earliest legal moment (or perhaps slightly earlier).
Regarding the last "hook", I'm assuming the accused is not actually a part of the Suhar Suleyman as mentioned in The Craddle and the Crescent, but rather an Ex Miscellanea Hermetic Sahira as those mentioned in Houses of Hermes: Societates, right? Otherwise, I don't really see how a Wizard's War against the accused sahira would be relevant or even necessary against a non-hermetic wizard, and moreover one that is part of an organization deemed by many as "Enemies of the Order".
Yes, she's an Hermetic Sahira. I stopped writing the Hermetic out of sheer laziness, my apologies...
#3 Gruagachan (HMRE): Somewhat less developed than my previous entries, this hook consists of a series of set pieces loosely connected by a feud between two rival clans living near the players' covenant that soon grows to encompass feats of magic by their respective gruagachan and supernatural creatures. The exact nature of the families and their feud will necessarily depend upon the tribunal and even specific covenant, but for the purposes of demonstration here we shall assume that the events are taking place within the Loch Leglean tribunal since it's the most strongly identified with their magical tradition though they can be found in other lands as can their variant traditions such the koldun and trollsynir.
Since the story works on a series of escalating confrontations, it's ideal if the SG can set up the two families (A & B here) and establish their enmity toward each other in advance. At the very least, the covenant should have to deal with a party of cattle-raiders or their pursuers trespassing on the covenant lands. The story opens innocuously enough with a livestock raid gone awry resulting in the death of herdsman from clan B. Before mundane justice can be doled out according to local tradition, the killer is stricken down with a terrible curse causing his family (A) to visit the covenant to accuse the magi of ensorcelling him and/or request that the spell afflicting him be lifted thus drawing the PCs into clan politics. The specific curse levelled against the victim is left undefined, but due to the specifics of gruagach magic should be designed so that it is thematically appropriate to both the his character and his crime (manslaughter) in any case, the spell is decidedly non-Hermetic so the magi will probably be unable to lift it.
Not long thereafter, some of the covenant's grogs fail to return from a task that takes them beyond the covenant walls. If the PCs have some way of magically discerning the whereabouts of the the grogs it works normally. If not, one of the missing grogs arrives at the covenant obviously having seen better days. The grogs were mistaken for members of clan B and transformed into beasts by a strange magician. The remaining grogs (and some members of clan B) are being kept locked in crude pens most are still in the forms of sheep, pigs or horses, but a few have regained human shape - they'll be changed back later). Clan A willingly turns the grogs over to the magi and along with the condition necessary to restore the grogs to their human form. If asked about the identity of the magician, they know him only as as a distant relative who was called upon to retaliate against the wizard working with clan B. For their part, clan B claims (truthfully) to not know who cursed clan A.
From here matters continue to escalate and begin to involve the covenant more frequently. First, part of clan A's herds are transformed into wolves or locusts decimating their food supply before turning their attention to the covenants'. In retaliation, a unicorn is set upon clan B's farmsteads, destroying their crops and livestock. Finally, the bloodlines of both families are struck with terrible curses. Threatened with famine and a growing flood of refugees, the PCs should be in a cooperative mood when the leaders of both clans request them to meet with each clan's gruagach to negotiate a truce. Both magicians are Gifted and distrust each other intensely so the PCs will have to take the lead in mediating the dispute. Fortunately, both are both quite reasonable as well and above all wish to see justice done.
Obviously, some PCs may decide to try and eliminate one or both gruagachan earlier in the adventure, but this isn't isn't really a solution - getting rid of one wizard simply leaves his clan temporarily defenceless against the ministrations of the other clan's wizard. Slain or captured gruagachan are replaced by their less powerful, more impulsive apprentices who prove much more difficult to deal with and ultimately serves to escalate and prolong the conflict as well as making enemies of the slain magician's clanmates.
I like so much this story, I've made almost this story, but with one more reasonable Gifted Elementalist, who is peacefull but his mind and behavior are affected by his equally developed Forms and Elemental Traits. He was loooking for one pair of beings of beigns enjailed and lost by his death Master, so he is like the players, but one Hedge Magician so the retaliation to invade and magical use is the adventure. On the game, they were subtle and they got him like on Ex Miscellanea and the Elemental Spirit located. The Demon (one Jinni Elemental power still out there, and soon I will use him like part of other adventures).
Ahh yes, I recall you mentioning that you planned to submit an Elementalist themed chapter for 'Hooks'. Sorry it didn't work out.
In any case, I'm glad to hear that you enjoyed my own take on an Elementalist Hook!
#4 Apprentices (Apprentices): I rejected this idea quite early because, I felt that any child-based adventure would serve as a good introduction for 'Apprentices'. In fact, however, a good scenario for this book proved rather more complicated than I thought. Ideally, such an adventure would use the PCs as children, but such an adventure would be difficult to run without recourse to 'Apprentices'. The timescale used in Ars Magica proves a further impediment as it means any child characters introduced to a saga tend to grow up very quickly. Ultimately, I sought to resolve these by borrowing from 'Realms of Power: Magic'. Specifically, 'Lost Children' (pg 92), a type of magic human that remains childlike indefinitely.
The story begins with the PCs receiving word that a Redcap was attacked and nearly killed by an angry mob at a hamlet or village not far from the PC covenant. Characters visiting the village find the people to be uncooperative and generally hostile to outsiders, but eventually discover the reason for their hostility - over the last few months a dozen local children have disappeared without a trace. The redcap (who has been known to 'procure' apprentices from time to time) swears up and down that he had nothing to do with vanishing children and permits verification of his memories with Mentem spells. Players may suspect that his employer could have blanked his memory, but it's a false lead as talking to the villagers will establish that the redcap has a ready alibi that holds up for most of the disappearances.
The actual culprits are a colony of 'Lost Children' living in a magic regio in a nearby forest who've been luring the unwary children into the regio to serve as playmates. How the PCs come to identify the source of the disappearances will necessarily vary by saga, but they might identify the area where the first missing child was last seen as a regio boundary, notice that there's a child in the town whom nobody in town can identify the parents of (and who exhibits magic might), or they might decide to lay a trap for the kidnappers (though none of the townsfolk are willing to offer up their own children as bait) in the hopes of apprehending them. Any of these methods could work and all point the way to the same conclusion.
The protocol for entering the regio is left to the troupe, but shouldn't be too complicated (the first Lost Children entered accidentally). The regio's climate is temperate with plenty of food and no dangerous animals so the village children are physically healthy despite missing their parents terribly. The lost children themselves have no idea they've done anything wrong and are more frustrated by their new friends' melancholy attitude than anything else. Hopefully, players aren't too eager to do violence to foes who are mentally and physically indistinguishable from children, but if they do attack the Lost Children rally admirably with the older Children wielding improvised weapons with considerable enthusiasm, but little discipline while the smaller ones, almost feral, bite and scratch their opponents with great ferocity.
Ultimately, however, it shouldn't come to that, the mundane children want to go back to their homes and the 'Lost Children' have no interest in holding them against their will. There are, however, some complications that may come up: First, some of the mundane children may have acquired the 'Unaging' virtue during their stay (via initiation or the "grant virtue" power). Second, while they'll cheerfully agree not to take anymore village children, the Lost Children just aren't responsible enough to adhere to it. Third, some of the children might be missing, having inadvertently stumbled into one of the regios higher levels where the Lost Children seldom venture and recovery is complicated by a supernatural effect that affects those entering the upper level with a full body version of the Arm of the Infant spell. Magi, of course, are protected by their Parma Magica, but any companions or grogs with them are incredibly vulnerable to any dangers that might be lurking in the regio's upper levels.
#5 Hyperborean Magic (Ancient Magic): Another idea that was rejected quite early, but in retrospect had considerable potential. My primary stumbling blocks in developing a hook for this chapter was the fact that I couldn't decide on whether I wanted to incorporate an actual Hyperborean Hymnist (given their legendary longevity and the mechanics behind "Illumination" it is wildly possible, but the original chapter really doesn't really support running a Hyperborean Hymnist and designing my own rules to do so is rather beyond the scope of a mere "Hook") or a modern heir discovering the tradition of his forefathers as my antagonist, and concern about what level of support he should have since many SGs will have legitimate concerns about allowing their troupe to integrate the full suite of powers associated with the integration of the Hyperborean magic into Bonisagus' theory. Fortunately, I think I've found a way around both of these issues, but requires a bit of advanced prep...
The story begins when a 'seeker' magus from the players' tribunal whom many thought had succumbed to old age or twilight years ago returns from an expedition to whichever part of Mythic Europe you've decided corresponds to Hyperborea for the purposes of your saga. What sparks the Order's imagination, however, are the prizes he's brought back with him: a small collection of pre-hermetic magical artefacts and a child whose skin glows with a strange inner light. The artefacts are, in fact, Hyperborean relics (probably tapestries as they seem marginally more durable than bouquets of beeswax and feathers) that he promises will revolutionize Magic Theory while the child is his new apprentice, a Hyperborean-blooded girl whom he wants to initiate into a Hymn to serve as a source of Insight. The exact nature of the enchantments in the relics is left to the troupe, but should be both enticing to the seeker magus and bear some connexion to the powers you'd like your players to integrate (if any).
The exact impetus for involving the PCs involved should also be contingent upon what sorts of integration options you want to allow in your saga, but multiple suggestions can be provided. In any case, the hook comes in the form of a very public usage of non-hermetic magic thus far unknown to the Order. As it so happens, the apprentice, while a standard hermetic maga apart from a her Hyperboean bloodline and Hymnist virtues, is suffering a slightly unusual form of Warping in that all her Twilight Scars good or bad serve to her closer to the ideals represented by Apollo. Despite her growing madness, however, this antagonist poses no direct threat to the PCs or their covenant and, as a member in good standing of the OoH, enjoys legal protection from harassment. Instead, the threat she represents comes as a result of her own expanding influence in mundane and hermetic society via extremely liberal use of her magics with a resulting pressure this places on nearby covenants.
Though some of her antics may skirt the edge of mundane interference, this story is not meant to be resolved via combat or politics. Instead, it is hoped that the PCs will be inspired to talk with the maga in question. She lacks her parens' talent for MT (her own education mostly involved serving as a lab specimen) and cannot hope to integrate her hyperborean powers into hermetic theory herself, but is happy to provide lab texts and enchanted items to those wishing to do so provided she receives suitable compensation. This by itself is probably insufficient to achieve any significant breakthroughs, but can be used to provide clues to other sources of insight such as those described in Ancient Magic itself.
- Sorry for the vagueness of this entry. I'd rather forgotten just how many integration projects Alex provided for the Hyperborean Hymns which prevented me from going into as much detail as I'd have liked regarding the abilities and tactics of the antagonist. I still think this premise could serve as a good introduction to Ancient Magic, but may require considerably more work than I can reasonably put into this format.