new Atlantic-North American tribunal????


For some years now I have wondered about the possibility and implications of Magi establishing a new tribunal in North America.

The discovery of the new world at such an early date is not implausable insofar as magi would have the capability, whereas mundane seafarers would not.


A Bjonrnaer with a migratory bird hearbeast could cross the ocean as a natural migration and tell the tale of the new land.

A mercere that captains a ship might use his magics to explore new areas. Or perhaps they simply become lost.

Eventually, hearing tales of such a new land would result in a flurry of new covenants being established as well as the relocation of a number of more venerable covenants.

Why would Magi want to move to the new world? Presumably it would be free of all dominion auras. What is more, I suspect the new world would have a good amount of vis. Further, as long as the magi did not come as conquerors the natives would be more accepting of Hermetic magic (in contrast to mythic europeans) insofar as the natives have shamanistic practices.

Possible issues and controversies.

Other tribunals may be reluctant to allow for an additional tribunal.

Also, I foresee conflict between christian and non-christian magi in the new world. That is, there would be those that would want to make juedeo-christian practice in the new world illegal, whereas others would think that oppressive.

One meta-game issue is that there would be some that might consider the addition of north america as breaking the traditional Ars magica feel. For if we allowed for Hermitic access to north America without european mundane access then it is clear that a unique non-historical situation would develop.

Another meta-game issue has to do with the future. What would north america look like after 200+ years of hermetic rule? how would a hermetic north america interact with a mundane europe that travels to north america in the late 1500's? (Assuming the europeans did make a trans-oceanic voyage at the time of columbus' original voyage.)

I am in favor for the development of a Hermetic colonlization of north america for a meta game reason. I always found it depressing to think that the order and the hermetic tradition would eventually become extinct. If the order could gain access to north america 200+ years prior to mundane europeans there seems to remain some glimmer of hope that the order might continue to exist. Of course, if that were the case then how the future would proceed would become open to question.

Another merit for Atlas games to develop this idea is that it would create new settings, adventures and unique story telling opportunities. For example, imagine a hermetic new york city of 10,000 plus covenfolk living in roman style buildings and worshipping roman pagan gods under the direction of a powerful hermetic covenant. Imagine Flambeau and magi conquering the Aztecs. Imagine magi setting out to find the fountain of youth in florida. What kind of new traditions would arise. Would a new house that integrated indian shamanic practices come about? Etc. etc. Of course, what I have proposed is controversial.

One final consideration. I have not read through all of the existing 5th edition material (I have only recently begun to do so). Thus, I am unsure if north america actually exists according to the offical ars magica world paradigm. Would anyone have any idea about that.

Well, I would be interested to hear what others in this forum have to say about the proposal.

Mundane seafarers were totally capable of travelling to North America. The Vikings already did it, but they never nurtured their colonies. Greenland died out, though Iceland survived. It isn't that they couldn't, they just never bothered. The motives were not just noble exploration, but Money as well. They wanted to find a cheeper way to ship spices from India.

But that's besides the point. Sounds like a smashing idea. I think someone tinkered with the idea of an Occitain Tribunal. Dig around the net, and I am sure you will find some great ideas.

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It seems I rushed my post. you are correct in that the viking had access to north america. However, I think they are a unique group of mundanes. In that, they were able to follow the ice shelfs and island hope. Unless other europeans followed the same route (which I dont think they would) then I dont see how they could make it to north america without the compass and better ship design. (of course, I am no expert on 13th century cogs, but I am not sure they would be capable of voyage).

Regardless, I just dont see england or other countries traveling.

But again, you are correct about the vikings.

Actually, I once thought that that would provide further interest to an Atlantic tribunal. Imagine what would happen if the order of odin colonized canada and the Order of Hermes colonized US territory. Large scale arcane wars could be a feature or possibility in such a setting.

Maybe they are oth in a regio, and it was their Arcane war that disrupted and opened this regio, allowing later Europens to colonize it :wink:

Cogs were based off of viking ships. Clinker built. If they wanted to, they could have followed the same ice selfs. But that's the point. They didn't want to. For vikings, it was exploration of their own back yard. For everyone else, there needed to be greater motivation first.

But anyway, since I am saying that 13th century mundanes could have done it if they wanted to, then certainly magi can do it. And they would have great motive, new vis resources :wink:

My thought is that what is out in the ocean is left entirely up to the storyguide(s). If you want to put North America there rather than (or perhaps in adition to) Highbrazil or fish the size of large islands who are we to say no.

The published material stays, for the most part, within mythic Europe. I would be against seeing an Atlas book detailing North America that specifically includes it as part of the standard setting.


I am just curious, why exactly would you be opposed to it? I can think of many reasons why you might be. But I dont want to make any assumptions here.


There is decent indications that earlier Europeans and North Africans went to America.
A whole bunch of "maybe, we just dont know or have any real proof of it" exists.

Also, do NOT forget that cross ocean travel happened alot around the world much earlier than the classical ArsM 13th century.
The most outstanding that is known without doubt is probably the several different islanddwellers in the Pacific which were fully capable of navigating between islands that were a month or more still of travel apart. Without any compass or similar assistance. They navigated with the help of stars, currents, winds, sun, moon, water temperature and colour etc etc...

Such methods are also known to have been well used elsewhere, usually just not to the same level of skill.
However the best navigators in the Pacific could actually surpass the accuracy of navigation using any compass before 20th century.
Also dont forget that maths based navigation also requires an accurate clock and a reliable way to measure the sun´s position. Despite the total lack of this the Pacific navigators could routinely travel hundreds of km between islands just a few km wide and still arrive more accurately than most European ships up until 20th century.

And 13th century kogs could "easily" handle the voyage westward. Going back eastward is a bit harder unless they locate the best sailing streaks(which took the Spanish a century or two).
I dont have my "ship books" with me right now, but im fairly sure there are some other ships from the time that should be well able to handle the voyage as well.

I think you can be 100% sure that if the order starts to settle in the Americas the mundane Europe will soon follow unless secrecy is kept extremely tough.
Especially there will likely be rumours about "treasure" caused by Vis harvesting(treasure for the magi), which will likely cause earlier exploration, and success.
How it would look if they manage to keep it secret anyway, yikes, BIG hard to answer question!

Heck, if you want to play around some more, why not let the Chinese explorerfleets end up in America as well(some unclear indications they really did, but probably not).
A Chinese "colony" somewhere western parts of N. America could be a fun thing to run into, especially if their activities brings about others as well, the Koreans should easily be able to get there if they thought they had a reason for example...
Lots of potential stories in the making. :stuck_out_tongue:

Its your campaign, if you dont want it to go extinct, why ever should it?
Personally(or us here that is) wont ever play the route of "magic disappearing" as it kinda defeats the purpose of the game in the long run.

Simple answer is, it exists in any shape or form you want it to.
I dont think there is anything official at all?

I'm not Erik, although I agree with his premise.

I'd argue against it for the following reasons:

  • Adding America makes you face political themes that we can't be bothered facing when there are other good books to write. So, sure, boo hiss Aztecs...but what about North America? When the Order meet the Lakota and want to butcher them, are we going to do that?

*The way games get designed when American settings are on the table is simply different to how they are designed if America is not available. Some games try to explicitly grapple with why this is the case (Nephilim and Unknown Armies both have reasons that America is the place where important stuff happens, and there are traces of this idea in Vampire). I'd prefer not to have to deal with these sorts of issues.

*The folklore of America is either unformed in 1220 or is the cultural property of native groups. Which do we use as source material? Is it right to use their cultural property in this way?

That being said, in my own game the Diedne were the creators of the Aztec religion and, yes, the Flambeau went looking for them.


I am, respectfully, a bit troubled about something you said:

What troubles me is the idea that people have or could have cultural property that is somehow off limits to others. I think it is not really a view that can defended successfully. For example, what about sahirs and kabbala? Did atlas hire jewish and muslim writers to write the material? Why couldnt a non-jew or non-muslim produce those works?

Is it morally questionable to speculate on and use material regarding pagan beliefs of the slavs as we find in the Novgorad tribunal? If it is not, then what is the difference between that and native americans? Consider the material in the ancient magic supplement regarding the natives of the canary islands. On your view was that legitimate? If so how does that differ from the topic of native americans?

Also there is a problem of demarcation. as an italian american atheist am I part of the cultural group that can legitimately use develop material in say the area of medieval german religious organizations. Where do you draw the line?

Yes, I do agree that figuring out the pre-contact native american beliefs can be difficult. Just how much of what is now know about that period is tainted by contacts with european society? Thats an important histotrical question. However, I dont think it is too difficult within in the context of developing game material.

Final note, please read this text as non-hostile and more in line with a calm (if not boring) intellectual debate. Its hard to convey tone in posts, and I dont want to be misinterpreted as being rude or combative. :slight_smile:

Timothy, actually. That's OK, it happens a lot.

Well, I'm an Australian, and we have a particular take on these issues. You don't share that. That's OK.

As it happens one of the authors on Kabbalah was Jewish, and one of the writers on sahir may or may not be Muslim but has committed to deep and professional level study of the faith as part of his wider career.

OK, I can see we are going to go a few rounds here of us each mischaracterising each other's position, so let me try to circumvent all that by making a scathing critique of gaming writers in general, including myself.

The basic function of a gaming writer is to give you something to fantasize about killing. Now, that's harsh, but I find that when I do non-violent houses based on Buddhist or Jain stories like Criamon, or even like Jerbiton who may or may not be violent, people seem to have no idea at all what the heck the point of them is. The basic idea in gaming is that you kill things and steal their stuff, and this makes you more powerful, so you can kill bigger things. When I bring other things to the table, I lose a lot of audience.

Now, let's talk Iriquois, or Apaches, or whoever you like. I'm not interested in taking their cultural property, reworking it to be game suitable, and then designing their religious leaders to be straw men to take fireballs from Flambeau magi. This does not interest me.

No modern group of Slavs continues this religious tradition? No modern group of Slavs has a political machine designed to express their offence?

Sure, the modern Canary Islanders are not part of that cultural tradition, because the Spanish genocide of the Canary Islanders destroyed it.

I get to draw -my- line wherever I like, and my line is that I find it distasteful to provide native magicians whose basic function is to take to take bullets for characters who want to play out stories of imperial expansion. Other authors likely have a different aesthetic. That is, the post is about my preferences, not so much about a larger debate on line policy, because we know line policy is "No" and will not change, forseeably.

I get that. My concern is basically, as you can see, that gaming has a combative dynamic in which the function of most powerful, statted NPCs, most the time, is to be torn to pieces by the player characters. This includes the divinities. Now, I, personally, didn't grab the Wrightson List (which is an Australian list of indigenous spiritual creatures) and use it for RoP: Faeries. I have in previous web work for Nephilim when I was younger, but I can see that for a person reading that who really believes in Wrightson List creatures, I am playing a game in which I kill their gods and ancestors for fun. I think there are lots of other good things we could write instead and that this is a cul de sac for us.


I now better understand your concern. I think our differences are rooted in the notion of what atypical game tends to be. To be honest, almost every game I have played has been D&D. My ArM experience has never gotten past a lengthy pc generationa and covenant generation with story or two.

The reason I like ArM is that you could play the game without those endless sessions of find the bad guy(s) and take his (their stuff). people like that would view native americans as targets. I get how you wouldnt want to make material for such gamers to use. Of course, there is a huge difference between how people actually play and the kind of stories that ArM allows for. One saga that I would love to play is where a group of magi set up a university/covenant in a city. Such a game would/should have little to no violence. But to be honest, none of my former gaming groups would have tolerated such and interesting scnario: which is why D&D was the unfortunate game default.

I envision a book that has the OoH in north america to be less imperialistic. I would forsee some magi wanting to live harmoniously with the natives and others that would simply exploit them. If it was well written it should seriously play up the ethical themes and dilemmas that such a scenario would create. But I do agree that such a scenario would require that the troupe address moral and political questions, which might not be for everyone.

Yes more or less on the former, havent the faintest clue on the second.

So? Already doing it for some. This instead means that its a matter of special treatment. Pagans are just stupid old myths so they can be trashed any way preferred, NA natives could sue and cant risk that so they´re out of the question etc etc...

Thats a serious pity because that makes for totally singledimensional games(no fun at all). Personally whenever ( not often at all) designing a campaign i try to make sure that there are always potentially serious effects of killing the wrong(or sometimes ANY) NPC, as well as potential benefits from not going on killing sprees, sometimes making it obvious and sometimes without even the slightest visible hint...

Though i have read alot on this forum who seem to go on killing sprees anytime everytime, and yet they keep doing so without realistic consequences. If dozens or even hundreds of people disappear in a region, its going to be noted, if it keeps happening the next thing those magi should notice is a holy "witch hunt" with massive clerical support marching through their door(only stopping to knock, with a battering ram)...
No fun with a gameworld where actions has no consequences.

Always been one of the things i liked with AM, if you want you can play a campaign over several hundred years without ever "going tactical"(ie combat).

And for both Australian and NA spirits/etc, why do they have to be direct opposition(or killable, maybe some are gods...) and why would either of those places be "imperially expanded" upon, what if they´re simply to powerful at the time to be overrun by force, and of course there is the option of using what few ideas there was about how "lands in the west" existed in mythical shape.

Obviously not. Thats a totally boring way of designing for a game. Of course i might be too far the other side, giving players opponents way too nasty, defeatable for sure but sofar most such defeats have ended up far more cataclysmic than needed because players went triggerhappy instead of thinking and of course getting an appropriate response, live by magic, die by magic... :smiling_imp:

But thing is, the game has already done the above with other cultures, soo irrelevant argument really.

Totally your(and other writers of course) choice.

I just dont like how unevenly the lines gets drawn. Some mythical parts are thrown out the window because its offensive to a particular group, other parts are not despite still being offensive to this or that group. And vice versa.


I have a question that Direwolfs last comments have inspired. What about a mythic india supplement? Would Atlas find that off limits. When I was taking my indian phi courses I toyed around with trying to produce such a work and then try to pitch it to atlas. (Of course, I quickly realized that producing a book on mythic india really required the collaboration of several people with various academic and gaming backgrounds.)

As far as I know, there has been reference to a few OoH magi that are in India. I think that a book about that would be kool. Do think that Atlas would find it off limits? Do you think it should be off limits?

To be honest, while india is secular and there are open displays of many religions in government and public spaces, I found that the typical indian took a dont as dont tell approach to religion. Also in india it is a crime to hurt peoples religious sentiments :open_mouth: I a not exagerating! the upshot is that people in india tend to avoid talking about and debating religion: even in a philosophy classroom. :frowning:

I'd note though that you are confusing my line with the lines of other authors. That is, when we are discussing my opinion as to what I'd like to see, the fact that it has been done by others does not make my argument irrelevant.

As to how I draw the line: sure, I use pagans, because I don't accept as serious the lcaims many modern pagans make to be the spiritual guardians of the legacies I'm using. That's true, yes.

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I do not know. Policy is David Chart, not me. I'm not a representative of Atlas.

As to "Should we?" IMO, no. Above all, I think that there's a tendency to want to hunt the edges of the Order for new and cool, and I prefer to find new cool things to do with vanilla characters.

Now I know how hypocritical it sounds to say that when the next book out has my take on a fringe group that's playable as PCs, and then we have Faeries, so it may sound strange I'm saying "I'd like more opetions for basic Hermetic magi", but I -would- actually like more options for PCs.

We did try to do China, once. It's all but undoable. It's just too large a subject for tribunal sized book. At least, I couldn't see a way to do it properly. Ars India could be cool, sure, but I think the basic logistics of the thing are going to be tough, and non-Abrahamic religions get the spiky end of the pineapple in 5th. Is Ghenesh a faerie? See how you don't want to open that can of worms?

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I know what you mean.

Also, while I was in india I thought I would have access to all kinds of kool info on medieval india. But not so much. A lot of historians focus on the colonial and post colonial period. the pre colonial period doesnt hold much weight there and there is the added trouble that discussion of the pre colonial period brings up caste/ethnic/religious tensions. A movie about jodha akbhar resulted in riots and was banned in several states.
The wiki article does not do justice to the tension and violence in india when this film came out. I was there and it was crazy, at least by US standards. Of course, most of my indian friends thought public reaction to the film and its banning was no big deal: culture shock :open_mouth:

While I think a book would be possible it would require a lot more effort than producing other types of supplements.

For me the key point of this game is Mythic Europe and the Order of Hermes.

Yes unofficial games can have players wandering outside the borders of the tribunals, although the two published adventures along those lines were South of the Sun and Deadly Legacy from the early editions. Both were clearly about making raids out of the known lands after specific goals and coming back. The book Fire and Ice was about one covenant based outside the known tribunals and how it interacted with non Hermetics with an extra pdf showing how it takes part in a possible Hermetic war against the Order of Odin.

Such books were fine for me as fun and fluff, for the reason that they were about taking a break from Mythic Europe and giving the players a brief saga of exploration.

For play reasons against: Setting a new book in a different continent with absolutely no covenants there already and just describing the non hermetic traditions and mundane politics would be possible but a waste. A saga usually includes other covenants and Hermetic politics to deal with, setting the covenant you found so far away that the redcaps cant find it excludes that, and I doubt the players are going to want to travel back for a couple of seasons at a time to purchase new texts and trade vis and info. You lose game balance, with no other covenants to oppose your whims the players will be balanced by mundanes and the non hermetics which works fine at gauntlet age, but past the age of fifty there will be none to stop them. You will quickly run out of threats to challenge them with except increasingly powerful spirits and gods. You also lose the threat of a Quaesitor investigation that keeps players from turning on each other and breaking their oaths.

For the practical reasons against: There are so many books we want and so many tribunals yet to put to print (I want Transylvania) that the fan base would like to see first that any actual official version would come so far down on the list of possibilities that we are likely to see a new edition before then.

If you want other continents then I am sure the best place for it would be the Sub Rosa magazine, as Hermes Portal its predecessor did various articles on non Hermetics from different cultures. Make your interest known and I am sure some writers for that will oblige.

I'm actually working on a saga that starts in 1580 and will happen in the new world. The Politics of the order and and founding of a new Covenant are the basic meta themes. Part of this was also part of my thought for how to get closer to a world like Howl's Moving Castle.

Did you ever run an email Ars game based on this? I played in one that was very similar.


it would be very lame if such a book had no other covenants. that is not what I had in mind.

You can create a back story. Say, 100 years ago a covenant raveled to the new world. Over that time it produced 2-3 daughter covenants. MEanwhile, it has now taken to secretly bringing over a few spring covenants. The plan is that once 5-6 covenants are established they will officaly petition the order for legal status as a tribunal.

The game starts with players establishing a spring covenant in the new world. There would already several other covenants in the area.

What about resources. Well, presumably the older and original covenant in the new world shall ahve a library. Players could rely on that (for at least a while). When they get more powerful perhaps they can set up a hermes portal back to europe. In fact, the most powerful covenant should have asuch a portal and the pcs could use it when it is really necessary to go back.

Because I think that North America is far enough outside the standard Mythic Europe setting that it should not be included in the "core setting" that a player moving to a game in another city might expect to encounter. North America or whatever you choose to put in the far atlantic should be left as an area for stroyguides to make their own.

I would like such a book published in a different trade dress that specifically says that it isn't part of the default setting (in the same way that a book on 16th century Ars magica or Ars magica - middle earth would be done).