Requiem for a game

I have a hankering to run a game. My previous games have come with a lot of plans made by me, for players to do things. Some of those things get done, and some not. I've had to adapt to the players, but I'd like to do something a bit different.

My PbP GM style is to silo the players within their own stories, with other players coming in as they are able to do so/desire. It works well, but it puts a lot of work onto my shoulders AND also the player's shoulders. I don't see any reason to not do this in a new saga, each player gets to be the star of their story. But, in order to foster that greater degree of character interaction, there needs to be work to create characters that have reasons to be together, and that's where the players need to discuss the characters they wish to play and how they'll interact.

I don't have a particular favorite for Tribunal or governance. It could be a new covenant (not really jazzed about this), or an older covenant, but we need to establish some history for it, a bit more work. I don't believe in balance, per se, I mean magi aren't meant to be balanced against each other. That being said, I don't like gimmicks, I've seen character concepts invalidated because someone interprets something as easier to do with different Forms or spells. If you see a concept, don't try and imitate it with a couple of tricks, while also doing what you want to do.

So, let's talk about things, if you are interested.

I'm in, your game style looks interesting.

Ars allows so many types of stories and so many sorts of characters, we could probably do with at least a little guidance on where you'd want it set or we'll go round in circles as people say "what about x?"

Well, I want to go around in a circle for a bit. I really want the players to drive things. I want to develop an vision based on a strong input from the players, rather than trying to get players to buy into my vision.

Raises a hand.

Pralician? Ice princess? Mute magus? Healer/Necromancer? Diedne? So many choices! Pralician is tempting, but...

Favored tribunals: Rhine, Stonehenge, Hibernia, Iberia, Provence, Thebes

Interested. My first intuition is an Intellego specialist who is good at knowing stuff but not at doing. Hence a chronic need to work with others.

I'm most familiar with Rhein and Thebes, but am open to everything.

Preferred Tribunal - any, actually. I wouldn't mind trying one I've never played like Levant or Novgorod or Transylvania or Greater Alps (yes, 3 of those 4 had excellent books in 4th Ed, but I played very little 4th ed).

If Pralix wants to live up to their name and play a Pralician, I suppose we need to be in an area with some non-Hermetic types so somewhere more "frontier" might be more appealing.

I'll be honest that I'm not really interested in hearing character concepts now. I think it's premature, but that's me, and others might find it helpful in developing their interest in a saga.
Given that this is so amorphous right now, I think focusing on the things you want to investigate within Ars Magica will open up character concepts once you focus on those things. Also, if the majority of people start to do things that run counter to a concept you have your heart set on, it will create difficulties for your character, which may translate to difficulties you'll have as a player. No one enjoys playing a character stymied by the saga's environment. Might choose a Pralician now, but find yourself in the core of the Order in civilized Europe, because everyone wants to play an urban saga, for example...

I think it is a misconception that pralicians can't do well in urban areas. They are about perceiving magic and opening the arts like no one else, and I like gently gifted characters anyway. That said, this is just one concept.

What do you want us to do then, Jonathan? Discuss tribunals? Discuss starting character age? Discuss topics like build a covenant, slay monsters, travel on a ship, explore America, hermetic intrigue, hoplite squad, hermetic school? I don't care where to start - just point us in a direction!

It may seem that I am indecisive by not setting a direction, but I'm trying to do things a bit differently in this saga in other sagas I've run. I don't want to impart a strong vision to start with, because I will invariably miscommunicate something, or leave something out that I had in my head, but didn't articulate well or at all. So, I'd like to reverse the process and have the players come up with things, and then I can ask questions.

For example, you mentioned a Gently Gifted Pralician in an urban setting. How much magic do you believe happens in a city with a Divine aura in most places of 3. How common are lacunae? Why does a Pralician have a better ability of Opening the Arts, when the canon doesn't suggest that (serf's parma)? Also, my understanding is that Pralicians want to travel far and wide to chase down legends of the exotic magics? How do you reconcile chasing down exotic magics with an urban environment? IS the urban environment a cover of some sort? Does it give your character the ability to more easily move about, travel about?

Timothy Ferguson talks about the game contract and how the character creation process is a contract between the player and the storyguide(s). Story flaws are supposed to be the things that draw the character out of his lab/development time. Often times, though, not enough attention is paid to the Covenant, which is a central character. It's possible for any magus to be drawn into a Covenant Hook.

So, if I had a suggestion to make, I would say establish the setting and the covenant first with the players, before landing on a character/magus concept. Once that is done, it will better describe the stories that you know will likely happen (Hooks) and will generally describe the types of magi living there. I mean, if you're an urban covenant, you probably don't want to have a Blatantly Gifted Necromancer in residence. I mean, you could, but it's probably an adverse role to play.

Very interested. Here are my ideas :slight_smile:

Tone: Gothic. Crumbling castles, dark foreboding forests, people try to eke out a living, and mind their own business. Drink, feast and be merry for tomorrow you might be dead. There are points of light, to counterweight the Darkness, but all too often the light is snuffed out by egoistical, fanatical and closeminded people.

Setting: Maybe a rundown covenant/ruin needs reinvigoration, an old Diedne ruin, finally allowed to be resettled. A setting primarily with ungoverned areas, autonomous areas, where nobles, covenants, villages and magical creatures each try to fight for resources and breathing room. Maybe a regio is a contested area, rich in Vis, but a honeypot for magi, creatures, demons etc.

Binding the magi together: Would love to try playing magi maybe 15-30 years out of apprenticeship, so they have a little weight under their belt. Maybe they apprenticed at the same covenant. They are married, or they correspond on Ignem. Their story flaws are intwined with the local faerie court or after a friendly Certamen, they want to focus on challenging each other over the years to grow. Maybe one magi killed the other's familar and now as an act of penance, he serves the other magi for a project, but they have grown close, yet still resent one another.

Problems: How do we make a mark on Europe, as a covenant? On the OoH ? Why is the Dragon in the nearby mountains so interested in us? Magical creatures that both seek our help and hinder us. Some rivalry with other magi/Hermetic politics. A little mundane politics, but not too much church.

Hope it can get the creative juices flowing :slight_smile:

Right. Then let's get ourselves an interesting setting:

I have two suggestions:
a) Urban: Constantinople - resettle the city (as urban as it gets). Catalogue infernal corruption caused by 1204 and cleanse it. Jerbitons, Quaesitores, hoplites, Holy Magae, most of them gently gifted.
b) rural: An outpost in Scandinavia. Task: Investigate the Order of Odin (which could be canoncial or not). Befriend the local magi. Pralician, Trianormae, Merinitae, Diedne

Rooting for Scandinavia haha... :smiley: Seriously though, being Scandinavian myself, I think there is a lot of potential. in 1220, Denmark, Norway and Sweden were still heavily pagan in many ways, even if Christianity was the official religion. Also there are so many folk tales and stories about nisser, alfer, huldrer, trolde, lindorme, nøkker, åmænd, mosekoner etc. that magical and faerie creatures abound. Nobles in Norway and Sweden tended to be quite autonomous,whereas Denmark was a little more centralised, but still with many factions among the upper classes.

As long as I make clear that there isn't an expectation on strict historical accuracy. Probably looking at wikipedia levels of historical accuracy. Easily research facts about the area, with possible deep dives into more interesting bits of history/folklore.

I suppose, if darkness is something that is desired, we can also examine how mechanics affect that. There's a semi-canonical position that botch dice on ritual spells can be negated by a single level of spell mastery and casting in a "relaxed" environment. I'm not a fan of that interpretation, but it is David Chart's nonetheless, found somewhere in the Ars Forum (I asked the question). I have a decidedly different interpretation, but if you want dark and gritty then ritual magic should probably be harder or riskier. On the other hand, I'm not a huge fan of botching either. I'd rather botching lead to new and interesting stories, rather than devastating negative effects. Ritual spells are also a place where magi spend resources (vis) and should get something in return. I'm not an SG who likes to cheat/steal his players. If you spend a resource that you've acquired, then you should get something out of it.

With respect to older magi, I'm generally a fan of using older magi rather than straight out of gauntlet. Two of the sagas I've run have featured older magi, up to 30 years post gauntlet. I have pretty good systems for establishing how much stuff you've acquired over the years, and also buff the XP gain and tweak the advancement rules a bit. But older magi require more work for integrating with the other players. Why are you in a covenant together? Again, I think discussing magi is perhaps premature, except deciding whether or not they've been at the covenant or have been invited to join...

Not a fan of Diedne magi, unless everyone is Diedne. It tends to put a lot of focus on a single character when there's just one Diedne... As far as magi generally, of the Houses of the Order, nearly any member of a House could find a role in any location. I would just caution that lists of Houses of Magi and suggested virtues might be counter-productive to getting people on board.

I will probably be pretty harsh with Holy Magi who aren't actually holy in their RP. Expect a bit more than piety out of Holy Magi. Giving time and money to the poor is probably going to impact characters quite a bit. Probably need to develop a model of praying for inspiration that takes some of the development control out of the hands of the character, because Holy Magic can be really powerful and more easily abused than the rest of the magic system. Holy Magi suggest I need to play God a bit more, not really a fan of that. I tend to look at the Holy Magic rules as more of an NPC area, but won't deny that they were designed to be played.

historical accuracy should only be used as long as fun and overall good roleplay isn't suppressed by it - agree :slight_smile:

When I wrote darkness, grittiness or gothic I mainly advocate a "noir/paranoid setting, thriller style, where layers of intrigue and maneuvers give way to more unanswered questions. Where people are grey, more than white or black" - but if you want to reflect it in the mechanics, by all means.

if more/all people are in board with slightly older magi, then yes we could talk about reasons for being there, working together, which does need to be more than just "you got an invite". More than that, as I use to say, "why would you lay down your life for X?"

No particular attitude towards Holy Magic, if somebody wants to play it. It comes with loads of good stuff, and loads of bad imho to balance it out. Would expect good RP from all, no matter house/virtue/setting :slight_smile:

I came up with the Scandinavian idea because I read the four (!) books of the Crusader Triology by Jan Guillou, which is mostly set in Sweden. Not sure how historically accurate those were.

As for a concept - the Ash guild sponsors a covenant in Sweden to investigate the Order of Odin and sends out a call to invite whoever wants to come.
The motivations vary wildly. A few ideas (not a comprehensive list):

  • a magus hails from Sweden and wants go return home
  • a magus feels someone has to keep an eye on the hotheads of the Ash Guild
  • the Ash Guild, and some of the more hot-headed houses want to try out their spells
  • a magus wants to get away from the dominion
  • there may be some vis diggers
  • a magus wants to meet the local magi
  • a magus is sent their as punishment, by hier house or her parens
  • ...

I'm interested in playing. I've a few concepts in mind but would prefer to thrash the accepted setting first.

Is the player list full?

The Scandinavian themed setting sounds very appealing as I've not played in that region/style, and many aspects of the passing of paganism is interesting.

Happy for dark setting or mythic, would prefer history to be fluid and background only though - so the future isn't preordained.

Not full at all! And given that this is so open ended, and based on precious experience people will drop before we get rolling.

Sweden! Our (Denmark's) eternal foe!!! :smiley:

If using a Rhine guild as sponsors, we actively choose to be a spearhead of that Tribunal - the same goes for sponsorship from Novgorod. Do we want that? Or do we want to try creating a covenant that advocates a "Scandinavian Tribunal"? Geographically Scandinavia is large enough to merit its own separate Tribunal, and culturally there is enough cohesion for covenants to develop along the same lines. I think that if an autonomous Tribunal was created it would make for some great late-game hermetic politics story arcs.

Such a story/theme would probably demand 2-3 covenants more in the region, and even then it'd be a Tribunal with a scant number of magi. Then again, it's our story, so it's not impossible to simply state that a covenant in Denmark, one in Norway and also one in Sweden are established within 5-8 years of each other, by no particular sponsor, but simply by a growing interest among the OoH to bring in this last great northern area of paganism, abundant faerie sites and vis. the other two covenants in the area could shift from allies to rivals back to allies, the only tenous link at times being a desire to create our own Tribunal.

The dark, foreboding landscape of Scandinavia does lend itself to a gothic tone, also due to the viking roots making the area less civilised, and more raw imho.

I like the combo Sweden + gothic as well, so unless someone is opposed I suppose we can settle for that.

I'm a little less enthusiastic about the suggestion of Ash guild open invitation in that it does not orient the magi towards working together in the way that Jonathan.Link suggested. If we just leave it at that, we will get a pretty random bunch.

Perhaps there should be a specific event, threat, mystery or somesuch that draws everyone in? Then the angle each magus takes can differ, but the object of primary interest is similar? Example: Order of Odin makes a display of magical might, and some magi want to fight them while others want to appease.

Spit balling - a threat..
A group claiming to represent the Order of Odin makes a request for membership (then a plea of protection) to the Order. Their leadership has apparently foreseen a terrible prophecy, an end, a fight they are unequipped to battle, a plague?. They seek to resist the danger, and are willing to bend their knee to do so. The covenant is sent to investigate & confirm the coming threat, represent the Order of Hermes to the Order of Odin, and potentially establish a beachhead against "it". That gives politics, discovery, investigation, etc potential.

Threat might be the Pesta (black death)? A new magical race? A drawing to a close of the supernatural forces?
Do the representatives truly have the backing of the Order of Odin (given there probably is no Order of Odin?) ? What if they were an upstart, and the Order of Odin thinks it has it well in hand?

Is the Order of Hermes actually the blight of the prophecy, and what happens when that news is discovered?
Or why did the representatives fake their prophecy, do they seek instead to cripple the Order? What if the threat was faked, but there is actually one?

Its late here, so throw it all away if its too cliche,