Looting a Mercurian Temple

Currently, our saga’s Bonisagus lab-rat is plundering a Mercurian temple. I’ve given some thought to whatever goodies he might recover from it, and I’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 can’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... I’d thought of a few rituals, modeled after the Fenicil’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 “Mercurian Magic” virtue. Since that’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.

Here’s what I’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 isn’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. She’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 it’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 “Hermetic Augury” 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 “ceremonial casting” 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.)

Less suggestions and more questions:

In your view of the cult of mercury, did they practice sacrifice along with their rituals? - If so then you will need altars, enchanted knives etc.

In which land is your saga? Depending on the country you can use real history of the Roman occupation to decide what additional magics were needed.
Take an example that they were in Germany, one of their biggest threats there would be pre-hermetic Bjornaer, so spells might be designed that attack that traditions bound spirits. See HOH MC for that relationship.
Or if in Greece and dealing with one of the traditions that used magic through music, then rituals to silence an individual permanently.

What other Roman gods would have small altars in the temple. The main diety worshipped would be Mercury, but there would likely also be altars to select other gods in the pantheon, be it Mithras, Venus or others.

But kudos for giving your players the challenge - are you going to have the Sybil geni locus merely hating them, or trying to subvert them and the grogs with dreams into performing further actions for her ie breaking down what remains of the temple, providing worship for her etc.

If you are using animals for sacrifice, you could have a nice series of adventures based on their attempts to find the correct ones..
ie: a striped sheep, a black cow with a certain mark...

Also: No text as to how to rebind her?

Quite possibly they did. Since neither Bonisagus nor Fenicil's Rituals use sacrifices (modulo the Curse of Thoth, I believe), I'm assuming that sacrifice can be eliminated from rituals that are incorporated into Hermetic theory. Good idea, though. Sacrificial parephenalia would be fitting to find in the temple, and bonuses for examining goat entrails and such would be great for the augury ritual.

Languedoc, during the Albigensian Crusade. The main desire of the Mercurians was a place to work amid the encroaching Dominion, though they might have also been interested in anything that could be used against barbarians who'd penetrated into the empire. Some of it might possibly be used against local crusaders.

The genius locus is aligned with the Magic realm, so her chief desire is really to be left alone. Since she can't get that, she tries to manipulate the magi into killing each other by sending them visions. In the pre-saga history, she was fairly successful, but that sort of thing really doesn't work on players. Recent events convinced her that the magi are too difficult to take on directly, so she may try to start working on the grogs.

Not in the temple that's currently being looted, no. It's reasonable to suspect that one might be found on a higher level of the regio, which would give the lab-rat something to do with himself. I also think the players could do it themselves with a variant on the Wicked Jar from RoP:tI.

Fenicil's rituals require massive amounts of vis, half of which can be replaced by expensive sacrifices. Rather than making your own rituals free, you can make it so they can entirely be paid for that way.

Casting Tablets seem Mercurian to me, the bigger the better, and a great way to add impressive effects to a game without the fear of having them available to your wizards at a moment notice.

I could see an entire Mercurian temple covered in runes that make it one Casting Tablet, or an altar, or giant stone tablets, or a coffin. Even better, these sorts of objects could be broken, making their use even more dangerous or impossiable. A giant tablet smashed into large chunks could be the starting point of a quest, to recover a lost magic.

Or maybe Mercurians used tablets to keep secrets safe, giving one piece to each of several worshipers so that the spell couldn't be used unless they all gathered together in one place and reassembled it.