Order of the Green Cockerel Story Seed: Ideas Needed!

EDIT: SPOILERS! My players shouldn't read. Other should be fine.

Last week's session included the 1223 Provencal regional tribunal meeting. One player expressed an interest in making discrete attempts to contact any Order of the Green Cockerel members that might be present. I deferred the request so I could read up on them more (tM:RE).

They look like a good fit for this magus, a Bonisagus lab rat with inventive genius, etc. He can post impressive lab totals in his specialties, but he's only 2 years out of Gauntlet, which seems a little young to be joining a Mystery Cult.

Question: What age do you usually allow your Magi to be initiated? What should this (or any) Mystery Cult be looking for in a prospective initiate?

This week, he happens to be the only player, so I figured I'd give him a quest. This could turn out to be part of his initiation, or just a step on the road to proving his worthiness.

Here's what I've told the player so far:

A few months after the Tribunal concludes, you receive a letter from a Sodale in Tolouse. He describes a Magus, one Alexander of Jerbiton (source: Magi of Hermes), approx 30 years out of Gauntlet, a famed explorer of North Africa. It is rumored that Alexander has recovered a copy of an ancient astrological text (or alchemical text, or something else; I haven't decided on the specifics of the McGruffin). The writer would like to convince Alexander to part with this text, or at least allow a copy to be made.

There are two problems: First, Alexander is difficult to locate, only occasionally visiting his home covenant of Cairo (or some other city in North Africa). He hasn't been seen since the 1222 Levant Tribunal meeting, where he announced the findings of his last expedition, and his plans for a new expedition to Kush, in the upper Nile above Egypt, in search of the land of Punt, mentioned in the bible (or somewhere else interesting and exotic).

Second, he is not friendly to the Greens, as he has disputes with them over various matters related to the recent crusades in Egypt, and is under the mistaken impression that the writer is a member.

Now it just so happens that the PC covenant's shifting regio is shifting towards Egypt, something the correspondant hints at awareness of. And as a non-initiate, the PC may be able to convince Alexander to share his discoveries, where others have failed.

His sodale doesn't suggest any payment in his letters, focusing instead on this discovery, which he assumes to be of mutual interest, and stresses the benifit he believes the Order, non-gifted scholars, and even Mythic Europe as a whole would gain from the wider dissimination of this knowledge, which the writer feels that he and certain unamed sodales (the Greens?) would be able to bring about.

The PC has agreed to undertake this quest. He is bringing 4 covenant grogs: a knight, a hunter/scout, an arabic speaking french scribe, and an arab or jew or crusader with some knowledge of north africa (he's working up that grog now, details tbd). He plans to first visit Alexander's covenant in Cairo to learn more about him, then travel up the Nile by boat to the general area where Alexander is said to be, then travel overland in search of him.

If you've read this far, here's where you come in: help me expand this story seed into a full session's adventure! The players have asked for a high fantasy saga, and this will be on the edge of the known world, so feel free to get creative. I want this to feel a bit like something (lofty ambitions) out of the Arabian Nights although its ok (probable reality) if it comes out more like a Robert Howard story.

The one thing I'd like to avoid is regios. The home covenant is based in one and they've been prominent features in recent adventures.

Open questions:

  1. What is Alexander's covenant like? Are they friendly, hostile, secretive, etc? How openly do they operate, and how are they able to avoid conflict with the order of suliman?

  2. Where is Alexander? What is he looking for? Has he found it?

  3. Does Alexander have the item the PC wants? If so, under what conditions, if any, would he be willing to part with it?

  4. What interesting entities of the various realms could the PC interract with during his travels in cairo, on the nile, or in the desert?

  5. What is the nature of Alexander's dispute with the Order of the Green Cockerel?

Punt is possibly Socotra.

Which is to say, the minimum preparation way of dealing with it is to use another book. The Story of the Shipwrecked Sailor, which mentions Punt (in one translation its ruler says "I am the Lord of Punt") is where the odd serpent who is my Avatar comes from. It's on Project Gutenberg or, in audio, Librivox.

The Order of Sulemain isn't that far south: Kush is in a Christian country.

Indeed. I was thinking more that such distant lands might be Alexander's ultimate goal - Prester John and all that; but he isn't there yet, still somewhere around the 1st cataract, on the borders of Arab/christian lands.

Ignoring for a moment the 4 houses that are mystery cults and apprentices that have a 'cabal legacy'.
That really depends on the cult in question, but i see most of them as caring more about personality and motivation than age.

Excellent timing!

(not based on the Blood&Sand source book)
They are a small, very loosely coordinated covenant, each too busy with their own projects to keep track of the next.
They are trying to be helpful - partially to get this person to leave so they can each go back to the projects they keep secret from the Order - and eachother.
(PM me for suggestions)

Alexander is looking for a Mcguffin of his own. In this case it is a hidden temple supposedly overlooking the Nile, where a traveller has claimed to taake cover from a sandstorm and to have seen curious statues of men that turned into beasts and back again (a lie, but Alexander doesn't know that).
He has not found this place, and never will.

That depends on how hard you want this to be.
My recommendation is that he sold it to a scholar-friend of his, one Tahir al-Kutubi ibn 'Isa abu Dawud al-Khradij, who sold it on to an alchemist friend of his in Cairo (probably neighbour to the above mentioned covenant), who has not yet read it.

Obvious ones:
The sandstorm is a magical Jinn.
A faerie caravan.
if you want an actual threat, a demonic ghul that haunts the gully in which he'll find Alexander looking for the temple.
none of them necessary

Again, this depends on how hard you want things to be for the PC.
Philosophical differences.
Personal feud with a member.
Set-up (no actual dispute, he is a member, but pretends not to be, for occassions such as these).

I know next to nothing about the region, but one thing that is supposed to be up the Nile is the third Temple of Judaism, built by the grand-priest in-exile after the fall of the Second Temple. Except that no one heard of it ever being completed. So if you're after a Divine or Infernal theme for the adventure, Alexander could be after the ruins of this temple or what is in it - presumably relics such as the divinationatory Urim and Tamim that the high-priest wore. The place will be crawling with demons, gloating over their success at arresting the temple's construction, but some guardian angels would guard the holiest-of-holies and perhaps will guide the PCs or worthy characters to the place - perhaps the Jewish companion?

I suppose, however, that you're looking for a more Egyptian high-fantasy feel. I would simply rip-off the plot of The Mummy. Have the book obtained in Hamuneptra by a treasure-hunter that fled as the guardians of the place awoken, and is now in prison. It would be the Book of the Dead, describing mummification as a path to the afterlife, but also mentioning the Book of Life that uses it as a key to eternal (alchemical) life. Have the PCs fight-off magical guardians as they enter the city, instead of mere cultists. Have Imhotep's ghost possess a PC to read the book at night, and release him to this world; and have Alexander do a Group Leap of Homecoming to flee to Cairo, and Imhotep come to kidnap her from there. The rescue mission finds Imhotep/PC reading from the Book of Life, and climatic battle sees Imhotep defeated but the BoL gone with him. This leaves a PC "touched" by the ghost and left perhaps with some Warping or Virtue as a result (perhaps the ability to read hieroglypthics?), the BotD at the hands of an Alexander that has little more use of it and is rather ashamed for not being more careful with it, and a missing McGuffin and defeated villain that could surface up in future adventures. Or something like that.

Also, forgot to mention that my players care not a wiff for historical, or for that matter, geographical knowledge. I try to stay consistent with major stuff for everyone's ease of memory. My "canon" source for non-mythic stuff is wikipedia's history and geography entries.

And if someone's got a good idea that would work better in Tunisia or the levant, great...

Oh, yes, I was referring to Esoteric, not Exoteric, mysteries, and I don't want pc's with cabal legacy at this time.

Sure, age is just a number, but hermetic age is a rough gague of power level and maturity. (The Masons asked me to join at 30, although I'd known the guy when I was 20.) Also since mysteries provide post-creation virtues, I need to consider when appropriate to avoid over-powered pc's. Sure personality and motivation figure in as well. How would you gague that? Of course pc's are going to pick MC's that align with their personality and motivation, but I got the sense from tM:RE that MC's are looking for something more than just "shared hobbies."

Sounds good. Now I just need to figure out how they're avoiding confict with the order of solomen.

Like this one too. Only glitch is that my player will probably offer to help him find it in return for a copy of the book. I need to think how to handle that; perhaps I'll just make clear that Alexander's is not a short-term goal.

So he goes all that way up the Nile, and in the end, the book is right back where he started in Cairo. I like it. Wicked.

All sounds good. Indeed, I do want "threats." Without making this DnD, the player has some combat spells, he should get a chance to test his meddle against some mythic creatures.

I'd considered that last, but Alexander, a waster of vis and a weak enchanter, isn't really order-worthy.

Meh, as I recall the green cockerel, you have to be pretty advanced before you get anything that might be unbalancing.
Ofcourse, YSMV

As I understand the mystery cults, they are many things and typically many layered.
The outer acolytes usually know a lot less than they think they do and are given "power" to test them.
To use a perhaps (slightly) more modern example, many westerners think a "black belt" means you're a martial arts master.
In RL, I have contact with a classical school, where they don't even consider you a pupil until you reach 1st or 2nd dan - until then, you're just being taught excersises and allowed to assume they are the actual techniques.
You might want to have a look at the Mystic Fraternity of Samos (TMRE p. 126ff) for another example.

A PM should be in your inbox soon

then I'd probably suggest a feud with a single member, that colours his reactions to the whole lot

Like any mystery cult, if the Order of the Green Cockrel are interested in this magus, they'll set things up to test him along the way. These may or may not be obvious tests, and they may withhold offering him any kind of position or introductory initiation until much later - but certainly testing his mettle to see if he is worth continuing to observe is viable.

I'd ask in turn how long you expect the saga to run for, and what pace the saga is moving at? After all, if the saga is unlikely to run for more than 15 years of game-time then taking some liberties with the entry requirements might be a good idea. Otherwise the player won't ever be joining the cult, only interacting.

As for adventure ideas...

Alexander's covenant could well be one not even near where he is, perhaps a Theban covenant on one of the Greek isles. It may be that his covenant sodales hardly know or care for him, as he is so frequently absent from the covenant for long stretches of time. The story could well start with having to break into his laboratory in order to secure arcane connections enough to track him down. Maybe not arcane connections to him, but at least arcane connections to his campsite. I've no idea how Alexander would protect his laboratory, but I'm guessing MuAn(Co) effects will feature.

Alexander himself being in some relatively hard-to-reach place sounds fun. Not just 'in the desert' but possibly even trapped in a regio or similar and in need of assistance. This could either endear him to the PC (though perhaps not enough to acquiese to their request), or even annoy him.

Alexander having things the PCs want... I'd probably say no, but instead make him an avenue for getting them. Perhaps not immediately, but instead later.

Egypt's magical and faerie lore is abundant. There's an entire mythology of Egyptian gods, ancient buried cities, etc. to delve in to. It depends on how high-magic your saga is. Anything from an ancient Egyptian temple hidden in a Regio to a Jinn camp could be encountered, or even a brush with an actual Egyptian god and a trip into a strong faerie aura to experience one of the traditional Egyptian mythology moments.

After visiting Cairo, the magi and his 4 grogs will be hiring a boat to take them as far as Aswan, below the 1st cataract, where they will begin their search for Alexander. This is a 500 mile trip, said to take 14-28 days.

Alexander is said to be seeking a lost Jewish temple in the region, which he is, but he has a deeper goal. He is a member of the Mystic Fraternity of Samnos. He believes that a well in the courtyard of the temple was the one used by Eratosthenes in his measurements of the Earth.

The plot is coming along nicely, but I need some minor interlude to spice up the sailing trip. Ideas?

What if a "Scitalis" (sidebar in RoP:M, p74) snuck on board their boat and hid amongst the cargo? It could attack a sailor the first night, a grog the second, and if not promptly dealt with, the magus the third.

Edit: better ideas or refinements to this one welcome.

cute dea - should work. Depending on the PC magus, obviously

They are currently being plagued with guests, and are far too flummoxed by all this sudden interest for the PCs to get an idea of what they're normal life is like. You see, several OTHER groups have all shown up, looking for the Maltese Falcon, I mean, the ancient text.

Each one of them is calling it by a completely different name, purports it to have completely different powers or knowledge, and they all want it. For themselves.

In true McGuffin fashion, Alexander just left here a few days ago and is headed...(rolls dice)... east! Headed east to that spot on the map over there. I'm afraid I can't sell you any more camels so you can follow him. You see, there were these two other groups that were just here....

In other words, Alexander is part of the McGuffin. You can't find him any more than you can find out what he found out.

No one knows. After four or five attempts to meet up with him, your PCs once again encounter one of their competitors. Only this time, they're all dead. Clues suggest that one of the other groups killed this group, and took some of their stuff! That group must have the McGuffin! After 'em, boys!

Now they're headed back to Christian lands, and the PCs keep running into dead competitors. These guys are all killing each other over the device!

This is because the McGuffin Device is actually an invested item with a penetrative CrMe spell to make people hunger to possess the device! Yet, for some reason, the PCs are immune to this behavior.

Airy spirits! Genius Locii! Frigging sand worms. A wise and benevolent Sphinx who provides the PC with riddles to try to help him along the way. One armed ghosts of thieves, turned to dust devils.

Hordes of desert warrior tribes! Belly dancing temptresses who mysteriously insist on gifting the PCs with cumbersome pottery. A rakish, devil-may care archeologist who nicknamed himself after a dog and is terrified of snakes -- he's got a MUCH more interesting lab text for you to consider.

The adventure ends when the last of the competitor groups fall at each other's throats, each wanting to keep the prize all for themselves. It turns out that Sphinxes are Dominion-aligned beings, and in return for your help, he'll either give you the book that your benefactor asked for, OR he'll offer something much more personally valuable that won't satisfy the "friend."