Mythic Europe Factions

I'm trying to come up with a relatively complete faction list for the Ars Magica setting, a bit the same way factions are handled in Blades in the Dark. I realize that a lot of this would depend on where a covenant might specifically be, so, for the moment, I'm wondering what AM source books (or history books or other internet sources) would contain details that might help build such a list? I'm specifically interested in fey, infernal, mundane (royal and aristocratic institutions), and other factions that aren't mentioned in any real detail in the Core book. Also, if you have faction suggestions, please comment away, here or in the document.

Also, having trouble finding a decent source for the different dioceses at the time. If anyone can find that, I'd be very grateful.

I'll probably repost later (or never, if I don't get at least this part done) to garner opinions on tiers and relationships, but, for the moment, I'm just trying to build up a list that I can make some sense of.

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For dioceses, wikipedia isn't terrible - English dioceses has a list of pre-conquest dioceses and the ones added post-conquest, so everything before Sodor & Man works (and there's a handy map!)
The oddly specific Dioceses of the Church of the East to 1318 is very good for eastern churches.

Royal/aristocratic factions change so fast (which is why the Theban Tribunal book had to have such a complicated history section).

Fey factions would depend entirely on what sort of faeries appear in your game, and whose folk tales and mythology you are using.

For magical factions, Houses of Hermes: Societates mentions Jerbiton societies and Tytalan intrigues, so these would form factions. Houses of Hermes: True Lineages include details of the Bonisagus include Seekers, Mercere groups like the Mutantes and the Cult of heroes, and Guernicus Terram cultists.

Thinking about it, most tribunal books mention factions, as Guardians of the Forest mentions the Rhine Gilds, Lion & The Lily mentions the feudal structure of the Normandy Tribunal, Lion & The Lily has a big section on what the different Provencal factions think of each other.

The Church mentions different monastic orders and knightly orders - monastic orders come and go in who the nobility find it fashionable to give money to, but the knightly orders with their fortresses, hospitals and logistical structure make quite big factions.

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How much do you want to get into things like sub factions? I mean on a grand scale you have crusaders, Muslims, Cathars, Bogomils, Jews, and then within each of those you have factions basd on nationality which are intersecting those as well as subdividing- Italy alone has the Lombard League, Rome, Venice, the Sicilian Empire which again subdivide depending on how they feel about Fredrick II, the Holy Roman Empire which divides multiple ways, there are about 5 political factions on the French side of the not yet formed Lothringian tribunal, A half dozen or more factions in Northern Iberia centered around power struggles of the reconqu, 3 seperate crusader kingdoms with twice that many factions plus the Sultanate of Rum sticking their nose in...
and most of those won't even show up in any given game because that falls squarely in the realm of interfering with the mundanes, unless you are following Tytalus protocols to not get caught through indirect interference, which if you are I could easilly subdivide any of those factions for you and dear lord you don't want to get dragged down into the politics of England, Scotland and Ireland...
On the infernal side the number of factions is roughly equal to the square of the number of demons, which is itself an unknown number.
Faerie factions are even less certain and possibly more numerous than demons, since at least demons take their factions seriously.
Divine has either 1 faction, 3, or a roughly a dozen depending on who you ask.
The magic realm factions depend heavily on your SG, ranging somewhere between 1 and infinity.

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This is the real question, isn't it? There's a judgment to be made on whether some groups are just parts of a faction or whether they deserve their own faction. I'm planning on breaking it down by covenant, and the local villages, but stopping there. Grogs and turbs certainly don't get their own factions. My rule of thumb is if a group could operate relatively independently of their "parent" organization for a season or more, they probably get their own faction.

Obviously, I'm limited by the time I have, and having thousands upon thousands of factions is not useful for a given game. But I am hoping that this might be useful for others, so it will be a public work that I will try to keep as loyal to canon as possible. Once it's done, make your own copy, and edit at will.

Those are incredibly useful! Thank you (and thank Wikipedia)! Any idea if I can find something like that for other European dioceses?

I haven't touched the sourcebooks on the Fey, but I really feared as much. I was hoping for a Fey social landscape that was about as complex as the human one, but that's obviously impossible to put in a book.

I haven't read the HoH books that closely, so I don't know much about these. I guess I better get to it. I really do wish someone had compiled a list of squib descriptions for each of those sub-groups that I could just plunder.

As noted on the reddit version of this, I'm wondering how you'd get the full benefits of the faction system. In Blades, you play criminals. How scary you are to equally-sized groups is represented by your Rep, which you get essentially by ripping off other groups. Being criminals, you are also always under the threat of arrest, so when you do a score, you get Heat (and potentially Wanted levels), which then helps drive the story-generating entanglement table.

The dynamic in Ars Magica is rather different. Magi are not assumed to be criminals, perpetually under threat of a March from the Quaesitores (well, except in the White Wolf editions, but later stuff has moved on from such adolescence). Relations between Covenants are not implicitly violent, moderated by fear. The assumption in 5th edition is that the Order works, and therefore is mostly peaceful (except in places like Hibernia or Novgorod).

Which suggests a couple of other options which could replace Rep:

  • Reputation: essentially "how liked are you in your Tribunal", so you get Reputation by helping out other Factions, being a good Hermetic citizen, and generally being nice. Fits well with the current reputation system, suggests high-level entanglements are things like cooperation, or being invited to join a joint Tribunal-wide project.
  • Power: "how powerful are you in your Tribunal". Blades captures this with Tier (and the implicit assumption is that crews will try and advance in it, as small gangs try to become bigger gangs, or at least big enough to protect themselves from their immediate rivals). You'd get power by the winning Tribunal votes, or demonstrating your superiority over other Factions. Low-level entanglements are probably much the same as Blades; high-level ones is other powerful Factions deciding you are a threat and need to be put in your place (so accept it and lose Power, or do something about it, therefore story).
  • Prestige: essentially academic. so how big is your library, how many Masters and Archmagi do you have etc. High-Prestige Covenants get bugged for favours ("can we copy your book"?), but also offered them ("do you want to buy this book?"), or recruited for joint Tribunal projects, or flooded with Peregrinatores.

Note that the base result for Entanglement is "gang trouble", which maps well to "story flaw trouble", but is also more work than looking at the one or two tags which define your thugs as overly violent or drunks or principled and working out how it has caused trouble this week.

Thanks! I love the idea that there could be several relationship tracks.

I wouldn't quite say it like that, but I might be wrong. My impression of Rep is that it's just an xp track for levelling up the "scale" of your crew, which is Tier. Tier isn't necessarily how good you are at offensive activities - you can be relatively high Tier crew without having an ounce of attack power. In the BitD system, what the tier represents is set by the narrative, and it can be any of the things that you listed. BitD is very soft-violence driven, so you're absolutely not wrong to say that muscle plays a big role. But it's not necessarily the case.

Rep is XP for Tier, but it also measures "clout and renown", being taken seriously (whether as a threat or a potential ally). Not strictly implied capacity for violence, just mostly.

I think for Ars Magica its probably easiest to just pick one of the possibilities depending on what sort of a game you want to run, rather than maintain multiple tracks. Doing politics or conflict, or telling a story about making your Covenant great again? Pick power. Doing something quieter and research-focused? Pick reputation or prestige.