Currently, our sagaâ€™s Bonisagus lab-rat is plundering a Mercurian temple. Iâ€™ve given some thought to whatever goodies he might recover from it, and Iâ€™m posting them here for comment.
First, a bit of background. The temple is located on the first level of a regio that may be accessed from within the covenant. The Mercurians long ago bound the genius locus and forced her into servitude, though (shortly before the saga began) a now-deceased Bonisagus archmage rather stupidly released her. His similarly deceased filius invited the players to the covenant. As the genius locus canâ€™t really tell the difference between the Cult of Mercury and the Order of Hermes, she remains very hostile to the players, and the regio is a perilous place. The first level of the regio is modeled on the wood in the underworld of the Aeneid. In keeping with that theme, the genius locus incarnates as a Sybil, and there is a gate of ivory through which she sends false dreams to plague the players. The Mercurian temple is a plaza (still warded against the genius locus) in the middle of that wood.
As for what the lab-rat finds... Iâ€™d thought of a few rituals, modeled after the Fenicilâ€™s ritual mechanics (FRM) in the Guernicus chapter of HoH:TL, but the Ancient Magic preview has given me the idea that Mercurian texts located in the plaza might possibly be researched for insight towards a breakthrough granting the â€œMercurian Magicâ€ virtue. Since thatâ€™s a major breakthrough and said current looting is the culmination of a small series of adventures, I think 8-12 BP or so ought to be a reasonable teaser to encourage him to explore higher levels of the regio.
Hereâ€™s what Iâ€™ve come up with:
The first text is a ritual (worth 5 BP) designed to bar the gate of ivory and prevent the Sybil from sending false dreams and visions. It uses the FRM and has a tentative EF of 24. The deceased Bonisagus had made it to the temple before the players and has investigated this ritual; thus, a lab text for it already exists. (It isnâ€™t intended to be possible for the magi to exploit this ritual in the near term, and its casting would be futile as long as the Sybil remains unbound. Sheâ€™d simply break the bars the moment the gate was left unguarded, and the players have no immediate means to lock her up again. This is an important plot point; the players were invited to the covenant to assist with the casting of this ritual.)
The second text (worth 1 BP) also uses the FRM with an EF of 1, requires no vis, and can only be activated at a particular pool in the covenant. It has the same effects as Enchantment of the Scrying Pool, and a lab text for it has also already been created. (This one is a retcon from a decision that was made when the players were exploring the papers of the deceased Bonisagus at the beginning of the campaign. Since itâ€™s much easier than it should be, the BP award has been kept low.)
The third text is also ritual (worth 3 BP) that forces the Sybil to answer questions asked by the player, though she need not be present when the ritual is cast. It uses the Hermetic ceremonial augury mechanics from TMRE, rather than the FRM, and the ritual is learned as a skill which substitutes for the Hermetic augury skill. The ritual may only be enacted at a particular elm inside the regio, may only answer questions regarding subjects within a few miles of the covenant, and automatically botches as long as the gate of ivory remains unbarred. (These restrictions are added to prevent this ritual from acting as a simple substitute for the â€œHermetic Auguryâ€ virtue. They are justified by the fact that the Sybil only knows about things that happen nearby and is going to answer with malicious lies as long as the ivory gate is open.)
The fourth text (also worth 1 BP) is simply a tractatus in magic theory. While quite advanced in its day, a Hermetic wizard cognizant of the theories of Bonisagus will find it superstitious and backward; it has a quality of 4. Its true value lies in its ability to teach the â€œceremonial castingâ€ spell mastery ability.
The fifth text is a tractatus on magic lore with a quality of 9. It is worth no BP (which should be immediately obvious to the lab rat) and is added solely for color.
If anyone has any comments or suggestions for other Mercurian artifacts that might be found in the regio, please don't hesitate to chime in.
(I realize this is a long post. My thanks if you made it this far.)