Orphans of Merlin - a Stonehenge Saga Setting

I've written up the setting for my current Saga, here: Personal Projects – TTRPG Homebrew - Yosano Studios This isn't quite as big as a full commercial supplement (it's about 35,000 words, plus 4,000 for the Normandy document - whereas when I used to write supplements professionally they were usually 50,000-120,000), but it is pretty focused: it assumes that GMs know where "England" is and can use Wikipedia, Kindle books, etc., to find out what was happening in and around the area at the time, and so only deals with the Order of Hermes.

This gives:

  • A Tribunal with a distinctive political feel (building on on David Chart's 4th edition Heirs of Merlin supplement), with the main "conspiracy" and the methods by which it is perpetuated explained.
  • 11 Covenants, including an overview of how each is likely to develop over a ~20 year period. Each timeline should provoke plenty of story ideas.
  • All of the Tribunal's members of House Mercere, clarifying Hermetic communications and Mercere's functions (or lack thereof) in the Tribunal.
  • Notes on what official supplements this works with and what needs to be modified from cannon (e.g. the version of Ashenrise, and consequently, Blackthorn, is 2nd-4th edition, which means Ashenrise in 5th ed supplements will need to be modified.) Basically it is compatible with the main 5th ed rulebook, but no guarantees that it meshes with everything or even anything else :wink:
  • A reworking of the Normandy Tribunal Tournament system (since in this setting many Stonehenge player character magi might head to the Normandy meetings).

All feedback appreciated, and I hope these are of use!

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Potentially interesting

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Sounds interesting, i like the Mercere-Description

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I like the Divine magic resistance section!

Bob

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Very cool, thank you for sharing!!

Thanks a lot!
This is very much appreciated :slight_smile:
Although, reading on Blackthorn, I was struck by the reminder how much 5th Tremere are different, and, I believe, better. WW Evil Vampire Tremere sucked, IMO.

FWIW, the 2 games in development look interesting and refreshing, I'll try to remember them. Good luck with these!

Btw, the bit at the end made me sad. That's life, and it can't really be avoided, but, for what it's worth, I'm sorry.

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Big "tears in the rain" vibes.

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This is brilliant, I am in love with your take and have been thinking about it for the last few days.

Out of curiosity, would you describe your preferred sagas as Low Vis/Fantasy?

Bob

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lol - it wasn't meant to be maudlin - I should probably rewrite it. Thank you, though! :slight_smile:

Hmm. Good question!

To some extent "I don't know" - because I don't know how everyone else runs stuff :wink: But to try to answer....

I love the potentials of Ars Magica - both the potential for breadth and the potential for depth. So, on the one hand I want medieval society to remain "intact" - for the existence of the Order and other powers to not make a nonsense of the mundane world - because I want to examine the depth of the world. On the other hand I love the potential to tell weirder stories - Hermetic magic, ghost stories, etc. - and I want to leave the potential to tell a breadth of stories. The question is how to juggle both of those.

So you can see different approaches in different covenants:

  • Some are very subtly woven into mundane society - Burnham and Schola Pythagoranis, for example.
  • Some are pushed out to the fringes or are hidden so that they don't impact mundane society (Sanguis Vento, Rossan).
  • Some essentially exist outside mortal society (Murkfell and Tintagel).

I also really like thinking through the implications of different parts of a coherent world. For example, if established covenants are picky about who they let in - there is no safety net - what happens to the magi who fail to secure either membership of a covenant or funding for a new venture? That's where Rossan came from. Many of the covenants came from thinking through these kinds of what-ifs.

A storgyuide could run anything from rambling, high-fantasy quests through the Regiones of Murkfell, to kitchen-sink-drama soap-opera plots around Schola Pythagoranis, but I want players to be able to explore a range within one setting - delving into high-magic, high-combat "dungeons" under Blackthorn one day, then scheming with thieves in the chambers outside Rossan before sailing south to enjoy the faerie weirdness of Tintagel, then going home and having a dream of Immanola's Hall which gives them a nudge to go investigate a completely mundane murder mystery... with all those elements still working within the same world, without them colliding with each other.

To make that work I will balance a few different things - some drawn from Ars cannon, and some not. So, for a canon example, when Regiones were first introduced (3rd ed?) I was sceptical, but I'm now a huge fan, as they allow different parts of the world to remain clearly separated. On the other hand, I will bolster parts of medieval belief to maintain balance within the mundane world (you remarked on that with the Divine protection idea), and I really enjoy the tensions that emerge when we take medieval ideas seriously (e.g. I play it that mainstream Catholic late-12th century doctrine is, metaphysically, correct; this gets really fun when modern players find they are searching for some nice relatable modern-minded humanists, or sympathising with the Cathars (who, let's be honest, made some good points!) but finding actually that the Catholic liturgy and institutions are the things most reliably standing between them and eternal damnation / the forces of hell). One big point is that I keep to the idea of the supernatural being inherently unreliable and suspicious - I go much more Art of magic than Science of magic, so anything that looks like a reliable magical machine is probably just a plot hook for something really bad happening (e.g. I do have Mercere portals in the game, because I try not to cut out too much canon stuff, but the NPCs tend to remind PCs that to use them you'd have to be truly desperate). I also have a couple of house rules to bring the rules back into line with the apparent assumptions of the game - e.g. I think it is easy to underestimate just how profoundly the published Tractatus rules will impact the Order, so I have reworked tractatus to make them rarer and more marvellous. Over all, though, I try to do this with broad thematic house-rules, rather than additional tweaks to an already complex rules system.

So to come back to your question....

I want there to be space for high fantasy epicness, but away from the mundane world. The game is rooted in the mundane, and the fantastical then becomes more remarkable for it.

So the saga I'm running at the moment, typically, players get about 5 pawns of vis a year per mage, and spend most of their time dealing with relatively mundane issues (a murder-mystery, a kidnapping, their friendly merchant being pushed to the brink of bankruptcy by a dishonest warlord), but the mundane issues build up to occasional big epic finales (they just dealt with a rogue apprentice who was trying to set himself up as the lord of a forest, I'm hoping they will take the bait and get involved with Blackthorn's researches so they can be in the midst of the carnage when it all goes wrong, and they find themselves standing between an ancient ghost and a powerful (magic?) spirit who both have opposing views of how the mundane world should be "better ruled"). Probably one third covenant/mage-stuff, one third mundane plots, one third leading up to the magical finales.

That was an essay - but hopefully it sort of answers the question?

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Errr...
Silly question.

I can't seem to recall that "Divine protection" thingie . Where was it?

It is in the Magical Masonry pdf at the end. It provides a major boost to mundane rulers to stop Magi steamrollering over them.... I really like it!

Bob

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Interesting, I didn't know about Magical Masonry. Where can I found it?

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Read it, I'm of 2 minds about it.

On the one hand, it's a big limit to the power of magi, which I'm not sure I like in a game where magi are supreme. But this may be me being conservative.

On the other hand, I like how it helps explain the setting. I like how it protects castles and churches, this is a neat idea.
And I love how, contrary to Commanding Aura (is that the term for the MR some church offical get? I can't remember), it depends both on local Aura and, especially, how virtuous you are. This is great, most notably for the noted reasons.

So I guess I'd probably tone it down a little, like cut it by half.

But thank you very much for everything, @KevinH. I quite enjoyed these readings :slight_smile:. If you do some more in the future, please, keep us informed.

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This is the bit that most excites me. It unifies the conceit and the mechanics, and forces interesting choices on my players. Too often (especially with the penetration rules as written for items) players can puppeteer the pope, so we have to agree not to do that.

Bob

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I don't actually have much productive to add to the conversation but this whole write up is awesome!
In fact it's so awesome that I want to use it for the Ars Magica fanfic I have been trying to write, would that be a problem for you OP?

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It is there for people to use and have fun with - so, go for it. :smiley:

Glad you're finding it inspiring!

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