Possible City Chronicle - Thoughts Needed

Hey everybody, so I have been a very very long time Ars Magica reader and buyer (I own every 5th edition book, Grogs is on the way to my house as we speak, and all previous edition unique tribunal books), though I sadly have yet to ever play or run (mostly run) a game using its rules. Anyway, I really want to run an Ars Magica game as I think its about time and I am having some difficulty when it comes to coming up with certain adventure chronicle possibilities.

Basically below is a description of what I have so far, though I very much would love to have additional ideas from you guys. Especially if anybody has run or played in a city-based covenant game or just has some thoughts.

So, yeah, preemptively thanks for any thoughts, suggestions, or advice. :slight_smile:


Deep in the wilds of the Isle of Britain lie one of the most ancient of covenants, and it is from this one where all our newly risen mages have come from. The elder mages of the other covenant wished to expand their influence and that of the Hermetic Order into London, and so they have their newly risen mages be the spearhead for Hermetic activity in that city. The basic covenant site was bought for them already, but they must take that and expand it into an actual economic, political, and magical worthwhile and productive covenant. Of course, the presence of a divine aura impedes magic, which is another thing that must be solved.

At the start the basic covenant site included three buildings next to each other around a central city square. As time moves on further expansions can be made outward (new buildings bought), upward (current structures given new levels), and downward (building in the caves and tunnels under the city).

Some Ideas

One of the longterm themes is trying to figure out how to counter the power of divine aura as it relates to hermetic magic. There are many possibilities for this sort of theme that the players can look into. Examples of such include making it so the divine aura has no negative impact on magic, to combine the two so that the divine aura's actually benefit mages, to actually finding ways to remove the dominion entirely. Another major theme is to try and maintain and expand both the covenant and hermetic influence and power in the city. These attempts relate to merchantile, social, and governmental interests in the city.

While the covenant won't start off with a regio, just some nice magical auras, their is a potential to gain one later. An idea I had is to have the players go underground, establishing additional regions of the covenant deep underground in a magical regio. If this is done than it can twist into a slightly more fantastical sort of game than the more normal surface version.

I don't see any immidiate problems.

You might want to remember the effects of the Gift on other people though.
Gentle Gift will make things so much easier with the neighbours.

That sounds like my kind of saga. You're nowhere near Eastbourne I suppose...

Anyway, nice idea, and there a number of avenues for you to explore. You say you have the books so I'll pick out some things you might find useful.

Mysteries: Revised Edition: Hermetic Architecture could be useful as it allows for the bolstering and manipulation of auras.
Realms of Power: Magic: New spell guidelines on working with auras and the magic realm
Houses of Hermes: Societates: The Jerbiton chapter mentions Lacunae and the Tytalus chapter talks about agents extensively. Agents can be used to manipulate the mundane society around the covenant quite nicely
Realms of Power: The Divine: Holy Magic, relics, invoking God's aid, etc. The Order may at its heart be tied to Bonisagus' Magic Theory, but why not explore other options if they work? Such a saga (and your covenant) would benefit from a character who uses some form of Divine magic.
Houses of Hermes: True Lineages: If you're looking to change the nature of Hermetic Magic you need to be looking at the Breakthrough rules. Ancient Magic has a complementary system so that's worth a look

And of course City & Guild, Art & Academe, and The Church are likely to be your foundation for designing and building out your city setting - churches, students, physicians, craftsmen, thieves, sailors from distant lands... The richness of a city setting is often overlooked.

Could I just add Hermetic Integration (instead of original research).
This means getting other people's tricks to work with Hermetic Magic (as is essentially what you could get from Ancient Magic).

For that though, I'd suggest

  • Hedge Magic Revised Edition - in particular the learned Scholars and their Entreat the Powers trick - an alternative to the Realm aspected magics of HoH: TL.
  • Rival Magic - mostly for the Virgilians, for use as opponents.

Thanks everybody for the helpful suggesstions and thoughts. They have been quite useful in providing me with ideas on material to use. :slight_smile:

As a note, it also made me think about the usefulness of using the Legends of Hermes book with the section on the Four Aspects of Conciatta, though some modifications would have to be done to it. :slight_smile:


Yeah, your right, I will have to remember that. I am not used to thinking about the social ramifications of the gift, so yeah, I will have to keep that in heavy consideration. Especially in a city setting where going to the corner market would bring a mage into contact with a mundane.


No, sadly I am not, I live in the US. That said, my plan was to actually make this an online game - mostly email, partly skype, maybe even test out the site Obsidian Portal to see if I could use it for this game.

Really cool sources, and some that I hadn't thought about. I figure at the very start I probably will only use the core for player purposes, but these are all places I will definitely look for ideas, mechanics, and fluff. So yeah, very nice.

You mention how the richness of a city setting has been overlooked, and I have to agree. There are so many ideas described about wilderness settings but its quite difficult to find material relating to havign a covenant be in a city. I obviously can, and am and will, make things up on my own, buts its nice to read the material somebody else wrote (and got paid for, hehe).


Great ideas, especially using the learned scholars Entreat the Powers trick. Its great that you mentioned it because it refrences to me the fact that letting a mage ignore the penalties of other auras is not something that is beyond the scope of the game, and I appreciate tyhat a lot.

And yeah, I need a rival group, and having it be the Virgilians (who are the closest we have to court wizard type groups) sounds like a great idea. I will just have to figure out how they are in London and how much influence they have over city and crown.

Agents of a foreign power? An ambassador or diplomat sent to gain favour in the courts of London and the king? Able to call for aid from the wider Virgilian community and protected by his mundane status. He may even have had time to establish a network of Hedge Wizard underlings.

We all like a villain, but we love a foreign villain more than most.

I like the sound of this saga.

If you want the PC Magi to be heavily involved with the doings of the city, then you might want to downplay the effects of the Gift (perhaps making The Gentle Gift a minor virtue). Just a thought.

I would not cheapen the Gentle Gift. Otherwise it cheapens the whole setting IMO. A plain -3 is easy enough to beat mechanically (we rised it to a -6 for normal Gift, -12 for Blatant), so it already requires heavy REAL roleplaying to make it noticeable. Make them have to chose between being able to move well in mundane society or having to keep a lower profile and be powerful in magic (Major hermetic virtue). It is a nice choice :slight_smile:

A Virgilian is a useful villain, but I would like to point out another villain type. A hedge magician (folk witch) with Nightwalker underlings. I would suggest him having mythic herbalism and Hex instead of Healing and Cursing, since I find them more fitting, but that is me. We are exploring virgilians, and they are not that powerful unless you give them a heavy head start. You can do that, though :slight_smile: Even have them have been around for 20 years before you appear on the scene.

Regarding thr witch, if you combine Hex with arcane connections retrieved via Nightwalkers and you have a powerful enemy that can be dangerous without being on sight for a while. I designed a character like this (the creepy brother of the duke of Bravant), but it has not come into play yet. I would suggest reading the short story The Confessor by Mark Shirley to get an idea of the things that such a character could pull up easily.
arsmagica.it/Cliffheart/riso ... essor.html

Another possibility is a plain old spirit master (or an infernal one for added fun) for the same reason: you can encounter his agents, but be totally unaware of who he is. If he has the gentle Gift (useful if you apply the RAW nonsense that supernatural creatures do not like your supernatural Gift) you can even be in a daily contact with him without knowing who he is. And we all know that the guy you think is your friend might be your worse enemy 8)


Wow! Yeah, I can see how that would make things more difficult! I would counsel, though, that it may not be necessary if the SG works in the background or offstage that low-grade suspicion that forms as a result of the normal (-3) Gift can still ppresent a tough hurdle to clear. With everyone who deals with the covenant (drayers and other suppliers, for example) that are only there occasionally and not dealing intentionally with the magi, then they never really acclimate and spread all sorts of nasty gossip and false accusations.

Just my two cents.

I'd add that, IIRC, the -3 penalty is in addition of the roleplaying ones AND once you've managed to overcome the initial suspicion. As expressed in spells such as "Aura of Childlike Innocence", the Gift goes way beyond a simple penalty, and reducing it to that cheapens it.
In many ways, the -3 is not so much the gift's as a side effect of it. That is, the people won't trust you right away and you've got -3 to try to overcome that.

If anything, to provide a mechanical analogue, I'd say that the gift implies that your first social roll with someone is automatically failed, and botched if you've got the blatant gift, and that afterwards, you have to try to go against that with the penalty.

The fail/botch penalty for when you try to interact in a friendly manner in a scene would be a much more elegant solution to the Gift in rules. I have always thought that the description and the rules are miles apart for the Gift and social interaction. the level of suspicion and untrust in the description (not only the Gift section of the book, but also in the history of the order and the flavor text throughlut the books) is way beyond the -3.


And, unless I was doing something wrong, my players found easy ways to cast low-level spells that provided at least +3 to a relevant characteristic or ability, counteraccting or even exceeding the penalty of the gift, even blatant ones.

I've been trying to think of how to handle that.

I'e encountered this tendency as well.
As described, the effects of the Gift goes beond a simple penalty.
So I tend to just ignore their attempts to curcmvent it.

...but don't tell 'em :wink:

I really thing that if you're going to allow spells to overcome the effects of The Gift, then you need to consider doubling the penalty of the Gift. Further, I think you need to consider the difficulty for overcoming The Gift. RP should be conducted as if the character doesn't trust the magus, that's the initial premise. I would then set the difficulty of tasks based on that premise. Doing something that requires little or no effort might be an Easy ease factor, meaning it is a 6 to succeed, but for the magus it becomes, in essence a 9. Things that require effort should scale accordingly. Couple that with most magi not possessing The Gentle Gift and not having a lot of xp in social abilities suggests that they fail rather often, and their failures have a strong chance of being spectacular (triple botch when they don't have a relevant ability). Players tend to forget that their magi should have intermediaries to deal with mundanes who are not used to the Gift. This ultimately leads for greater story telling opportunities.

Examplia Gratia
Ra'am of Bonisagus has Charm (covenfolk) 2 and Presence +1, and wants to convince one of the covenant's laborers who he doesn't have regular contact to do something, personally. The ease factor for this is set at Average by the SG, because the task will require a day's effort and leave the laborer behind on other work. Ra'am's totals before the die roll are +4 and -3 for a net of 1 to the die roll. Ra'am must roll a 8+ to succeed. He has a slightly greater than 20% chance of success if this is a stressful situation (which I would make it be stressful). His alternatives are to work through intermediaries.

Depending on how true to the Ars mechanics you want to be, you can always take a tip from modern "urban fantasy"/"urban fairytale" stories - those of Neil Gaiman's "Neverwhere" or Mike Shevdon's "Sixty-one nails" (whose plot involves a medieval rite in London and a treaty with fairies) to give examples of blending London with strange creatures out of fae. Strictly speaking, the divine aura ought to repel most fae, but maybe the urban breed are hardy and lacking in religious sovereign wards, or maybe they lurk underground, on the rivers or at height to keep away from the strongest auras. Maybe one of the fine Royal Charters isn't in fact sworn to any mortal king, but to a faerie one (which is a possibility from C&G) and medieval London is a little stranger than you think.

Possible rivals: the templars! In 1184 they build the New Temple in London, so there is a recent HQ for players to be suspicious of. You can link any conspiracy you like to the Templars and it will be less outlandish than what some people in real life have suggested.

The King - if powerful nobles or royalty are aware of magic, and perhaps have some skill in Magic Lore, they will want to purchase magic items and the services of court wizards and spend the royal treasury doing so. They may see these Hermetic magi, who refuse to work as court wizards, as a nuisance or obstacle. Maybe they are accumulating objects from verditius venditors, every kind of hedge and rival mage, objects dug up from ruins, and crafted by every mildly talented craft mage. Their haul of objects, together with magic resistance from relics (or from their royal status if you use senior royalty) can pose problems. Also, they may be easily swayed by promises from infernalists and rival magi, who then seek to have any opposition crushed. The magi may be forced to interfere with mundanes for the good of the entire kingdom.

CJ enjoys using royals in plotlines, and it always encourages a stream of cursing from players.

And ain't that nice? :mrgreen: Good move, btw.