Return to Calabeis

I'm going to run Broken Covenant of Calabeis soon, and I wanted to ask about the experiences of other Storyguides, mainly highlights and memorable points in the story as the various groups did it. I'm basically looking for fresh ideas on how to run Calabeis.

I've ran it once before, but not to the end. One problem we had was Pitsdim. How can a magus win, in any way, over Pitsdim? He will laugh and cackle and blast anything he sees with Creo Ignem spells that are above and beyond anything other magi might have.

I really like the Hrools, and since I have a pet albino ferret myself, I tend to detail the Hrools even more, give them more personality. In my campaign, the Hrools will be a plot element beyond Calabeis, as they might lead an exodus of sorts out of Calabeis to find å new home to live in peace and harmony etc etc. :slight_smile:

So, care to share experiences with Calabeis? Especially how to handle the various ghosts. :slight_smile:


Ran it once. My own problem was myself (inexperienced) and the players (hash smoking teenagers at the time).

They ended up casdting the Earth's Pore on the entrance to Calebais because they could not deal with the weakest enemies (and potential allies) there simply by brute force.

So, in general, it was a crap adventure that ended badly. I really like the adventure, but have never played it successfully since then. Never tried, in fact, even if I have used some of the plots in the adventuee successfully.


Ahh, Calebais!

The place has a definate lure to it. At the same time it is a very tough nut to crack - what with powerful beings still resting (or rather, NOT resting) there. Somehow the hubris that spelled the end of the original covenant is often repeated by those magi who'd rush the place to soon or heads on.. only to taste bitter defeat.

I've also run Calebais - and even after having spent 2 stories, both spanning many sessions, we are still not done with the place. I'm certain we will return there at some time - it might even be around the time the saga is nearing its finale (for now a powerful NPC archmage has proclaimed the site as home of a new covenant, Renate, but in some ways most of all to keep anyone else from discovering secrets in its depths)...

The thing is, I don't think there's any easy way to handle the likes of Pitsdim (or the triumvirate further below). I would suggest to possible avenues (excluding letting him be a "game-stopper" that will kill or chase off any explorers):

A) make him defeatable (to any but the already powerful magi)! One option is to diminsh his Might (MR - as I don't suppose his PM is worth anything post-mortem, just as his magic is also fueled by Might) either by just adjusting it down or by finding a story-reason for it being low (conflict with other ghostly magi, another exploring magus' attack or whatever plausible explanation) or by giving the characters knowledge/power to beat him - e.g. AC and things needed to prepare a penetration-enhanced attack.

B) make it about the story. Give the characters info or even nudge them along a way to finding a trick to circumvent him. Or even better achieving eternal rest for him as described in the adventure.

I recall wondering how the place could ever be handled by a group af magi almost just out of Gauntlet. But I came to the conclusion that it does have a major benefit - it stresses the stories of the place that the opposition can't just be blown to kingdom come. The characters undoubtfully have to interact with the more or less crazed ghosts. It rings home the atmosphere and themes of the place. The simple solution to make it manageable is as suggested simply to lower Might scores - but at the price of not being able to force the players to relate to what Calebais is and was.

Pitsdim was in our story (only at the second visit) handled through one of the magi coincidentally having an apprentice with the Greater Immunity (to fire). The apprentice is played by a player and she ended up alone with Pitsdim with many intersting remarks between the girl and the crazed ghost (somewhat immasculated) and with the magi hiding behind the door having a vivid discussion to what degree they could (ab-)use the girl by using her as a decoy for the rambled ghost's aggressions.

As a closing remark - the Hrools had both a peak and sad demise with us. On one hand they were very efficient at resisting the first incursion of the magi - one hrool rolling 80+ in an attack and skewering the chainmail-clad leader of the grogs (from mouth to stern). The magi retreated but left a treasure of their own with the remaining hrools - a roman gladius of unknown origins that makes its wielder a great tactician and a greater leader. When the magi returned more or less two years later that one tribe of hrools had subjected the rest of them and taken firm possession of most of the ruins (even enslaving Pitsdim old familiar). But when the magi returned, this time with a senior flambeau magus from their covenant, they used ceremonial magic to cast a PeIg spell (T:Structure) and froze everything within killing the hrools. The spell was done by the flambeau but they all helped as aides to his ceremony and some of them have had qualms about their act - illustrated by their descent down the ruins passing all the frozen hrools, a conscious species on the rise (one of them actually having been nurtured back to life after their failed attempt at Calebais)...

Good luck and enjoy!

I wrote an article about Calebais for issue 14 of Hermes Portal, which is currently available for free download online. It's shorter than it could be, but you might find it useful. There's some discussion of storyguiding it and suggestions for roleplaying the ghosts in general.

I'm always willing to help with the specifics. I've run all the way through it four times now, and done bits of it lots of different times. It's like this whole little insulated world that the characters stumble upon, and I really like hearing stories about others' experiences.

Pitsdim is a challenge, yes. I would point out that it costs him Might to affect the characters with his fire spells, so his first volley won't hit because he doesn't remember he's a ghost. Next round, he might be confused, thinking that their Parmas blocked the effect, and try a lower level spell. Players may be able to keep him off-balance so he doesn't figure out to use his Might. He isn't exactly quiet, so players may figure out he's in there and spy on him a bit first to see what his deal is. One game I ran had a character with a pretty good Parma ducking and weaving around to keep him occupied while the others snuck past. That's a good strategy: treat him as an obstacle the characters must get around, not necessarily destroy.

The real key to dealing with Pitsdim, or any of the ghosts, is to understand them. Once the players figure out what is keeping them bound to Calebais, they can dispel them through entirely non-magical means. Pitsdim is probably the most one-dimensional character on the surface, but that just makes it harder to figure out what he wants. One game I ran, the characters figured out what was going on with the ghosts, and managed to enlist many of them (the grogs and David) into a full-scale attack on Pitsdim. They lured him into the library and let them bear the brunt of his attacks while they explored the council chamber.

If the characters actually want to move in to Calebais, Pitsdim will probably be the last big challenge for them. If they just want to loot the place and get out, he's a temporary bother. If they can get him to use up his Might, or perhaps reduce his Might with Perdo Vim magic (the Hrools can help with that), they may never have to deal with him again once he vanishes. (Though I like the idea that the ghosts eventually come looking for their missing treasures...)

I've never had anyone figure out how to use Ferdina's chime and call a council meeting, and I've always wanted to see how that would play out.

I've run Calebais once, to introduce Ars Magica to my friends.

We ran it in an epic single session with overpowered characters (Griffin Heartbeasts anyone?) and much fun was had by all. The words "Creo Ignem" in a sing-song voice, which was how I ended up expressing Pitsdim, made their blood run cold up until the troupe split up.

It made a great introduction into the game and led us into a much more serious saga.

Calebais remains my favourite 'module' of all time and one I hope to run for my new troupe, if I can get around the similarities of themes between Calibais and their covenant without the former overriding the latter. I'm worried about repeating things... hmm...

First up, I'm going to use the Hrools alot. I'll let my ferret sit in on the game when the Hrools appear. He's the best "handout" I can think of (when he's not stealing stuff from the players or go through their bags, that is..) :smiley:

About the Hrools, and awakened animals in general, I read two conflicting bits in the last part of the book. On page 93, it says that Awakened animals age as humans, but on the Social Flaw "Animal" on page 94, it says they age as animals. What's correct?

The situation in our campaign is a bit strange now. You see, we set up a covenant near the present day town Teufen. That's where the Rhine River turns north towards the Rhinefalls. The Beta Storyguide in our group wasn't sure if this was in the Rhine Tribunal or Greater Alps (anyone know for sure?). But he's head of covenants stories, so he said it was a former Chapter House of Icy North the group of Magi had been given by the Rhine Tribunal. And now they're being threatened to perform heaps of duties for Icy North or face their wrath. Some magi in the group thinks this is too much, because they have several obligations to the Rhine Tribunal too. They want to move, find a new site in Normandy Tribunal, and some of the players have their eyes on Calabeis. How would all this work with Hermetic Law? Could they just strip their covenant for vis and move to another Tribunal?

By the way, I placed Calabeis in Picardy, in the forest of Montagne de Reims. The village in the story is Ay.


Much legal trouble and fun will be had by all, unless the covenant charter is uncommonly nonspecific.

The example charter in Covenants pp. 126-, for example, specifies which Tribunal you pledge allegiance to. And is sealed and approved by a quaesitor.

Disbanding the old covenant and swearing a new, in the new tribunal, would seem to be the easiest course. Even then, grabbing all valuables and running will come back to haunt them. Reputations or pride to uphold, anyone? :slight_smile:

Ha, excellent! I have a ferret puppet that my wife gave me right after that book that I've used when running it, but I imagine the real thing is a thousand times better.

Doh! Hmm, an interesting error. Did I fix it for House Merinita? (checks) Nope, doesn't look like it. Well... my instinct (several years later!) is that if a magical animal ages, it should age as an animal, not as a human being. (A familiar ages at the same rate as the magus, but I imagine that's because of the bond, not because of the awakening process.) That makes Calebais a little more interesting, because things can change drastically there in just a few years, as the Hrools have offspring and teach them about the outsiders who came through several generations ago. Of course since the Hrools are magical animals, I'd imagine that could change things. If you want them to live longer, you can probably justify it fairly easily.

Do they have to strip it of vis? That's probably the sticky point. If they just leave it all for the Icy North and start their own covenant elsewhere, I'd imagine they could get away with it.

Neat! I'm curious, how will you work the new covenant into the politics of the region? Would it be beholden to another covenant? I don't have L&L here with me (lent it to a friend) so I can't remember what other big covenants are given for Picardy.

The criminal mastermind ferret in question is pictured on this link: :slight_smile: (the picture in the bottom of the page is of a sofa he trashed all by himself) I love that little rascal :smiley:

Thing is, the magi are split on the issue to leave or not. Next session, there will be a council meeting, and it's going to be pretty interesting. I'm not storyguiding that, but I'm playing my Bjornaer Peregrinatore from Norway (Sinus Wodinis.. interesting place, that one). Also, the Redcap who delivers the letter from the nun in Calabeis will arrive. I've changed Ash with a Redcap they've met before. This guy was cursed by a faerie and now he can only sing everything he wants to say, so he's taken up the life of a wandering minstrel. :slight_smile:


Yeah! I used that logic to describe the pace of changes since the characters first adventure there (and that story about the sword helping things along).

Btw, cheers on both comments on the ghosts and the article - found both helpfull and I'll remember both when our troupe returns there for the third time.

Awesome! If I ever find a way of reintroducing the hrools (in spite of the characters expecting them to all be dead) I'll have to find a way to lure you and the little fella down south!!!

I had a great laugh and a greater smile from reading the text with the pictures! I can't shake the picture of him taking over the keyboard, when reading your posts in the future... :laughing: And blame on you for any mischief done by him - who wouldnt trash a couch or two if castratet!!!

Well, all house ferrets should be castrated, if not, you'll have your ferrets go through an almost murderous rampage each spring when they want to breed. For female ferrets, it's worse. If they're not sterile, they will die when they get in heat unless they get to mate. :open_mouth: Male ferrets just want to kill stuff when they're in heat.. not unlike humans in some respects. :stuck_out_tongue:

As for Calabeis, I find Hrools too interesting to use them for combat encounters. :slight_smile:

Also, how did you handle the thing with the Satyrs and the Dryad? Is there a happy ending to be had for all in this instance?


I have the original Calebais supplement. I've run it twice in one saga (they needed a return trip years later, after the necessary preparations) and it became the base to form a new covenant in a spin-off saga. The original story has even repeated itself in the spin-off saga, during a very odd episode in anearby high level regio. This is put very short. The somewhat longer version goes:

First run of the adventure, was with relatively young magi and relatively inexperienced ars players (though already at that time veteran role players). Both the ghosts and the Hrool gave the magi problems, as did simple traps, difficult terrain, cave-ins and floods, along with the earth elemental in the floor of one of the labs. They managed to interact with quite a few ghosts, and give many of them peace of mind and final rest. I can't remember if they helped some of ther Hrool to leave and set up their tribe outside this time, or if it was in the next. I do believe the Hrool split up into two factions, and one of them stayed behind. Also, I don't remember if they managed to find the Bell and haul it home this time or the second. Pitsdim gave them a lot of bother, and while unable to fight him, they had to avoid him. Because they only solved part of the ghosts'unfinished business, he remained unchecked. In the end, they went home to lick their wounds. It was a partial succes, they managed to get quite a bit of swag, and they learned a lot. They publizied their findings, and ended up discrediting the surviving magus (whazzis name?), who had claimed it was demons, when in relaity it was pride, arrogance and human frailties that ruined Calebais.

A good deal of gam-years later, the troupe opted for another go. This time, they came beetter prepared, they were more experienced, and some changes in teh roster had happened. Among others, a new player had made a ghost-specialist, plus there were some apprentices. As mantioned above, I can't recall whether the Ball and the Hrool happened this time.
A lot more ghosts were resolved, and in the end even Pitsdim was confronted. His familiar played some part, I believe they managed to use it to get contact with him, and make him realize certaina spects which his amdness had prevented. A tragic end of course, but it still stopped him. j Little more loot was found this time. The flooded levels were investigated somewhat, the collapsed levels weren't. Because they were completely caved in.

Some years IRL later, we started a new saga, with a few old and some new players. It was set after the end of the first, but in Norandy Tribunal (the first was in Stonehenge). This way, we used all events and people previously defined. This new saga was about a group of young magi wanting to settle Calebais again. We had a lot of stories to begin with, regarding what was left. We redefined the location of Calebais to better fit the new saga, since it had bever been very accurately put on a map. The colapsed levels were re-defioned as just caved in, and were cleared. We drew additional maps of these missing levels, and put the labs of all the resident magi from back them on. The saga lasted 30 game-years and several RL years. In the end, the magi had built a large stone manor on top of the hil, as the front for the covenant (as the area becase less wild and was partially retaken by mundanes), with the "well" of calebais in one courtyard. The Calebais advanture served as backdrop, since the ghosts and whatnot were already resolved, except bits and snipets in the start of the saga.

Some time during the saga, a very odd event reagrding a neaby high-level regio trapped all the magi of the saga inside. When they returned to their home, it was the old calebais. It turned out the last hours of Calebais happened again and again. Using character knowledge of what had happened during the old saga's adventure there (these old magi had published most if not all of their findings), they did a quick re-play of interaction with ghosts, to resolve the ciscis. It was a good advenyure, even this time. It was still new for some players, and the old ones could only remember bits.

Hrools are famous for going abroad (read: around the forest) to find exquisite foods. Have 2 or so expeditions of hrools abroad when you mass murdered the poor rodents and you have a population as large as you want (and as many factions as you fancy, in case the sword was lost) in 10 years time :slight_smile:

Loved the "handout" concept there!! :stuck_out_tongue: Carteful with the critter, though: He /she has magical powers!! (albino hrool)

I will have to test Calebais in the future again. It certainly remains my all time favorite adventure of the 10-15 rules systems I) have around.



Rodents? If Hrools are based on ferrets, they are very much predators. :wink:

I'm having devious plans of turning the magi in my group into animals before they reach Calabeis, but that's another story :smiling_imp:


Oh! Using the animal powers BEFORE calebais? Sounds like fun :smiling_imp:


The magi will be transformed into different animals by a vengeful faerie who is looking for the dryad in Calabeis (love affair, maybe). He blames the Order for imprisoning her, and seeing Magi nearing Calabeis, he will trap them in animal form. They should try to get out of this form before entering the ruins, and the Bjornaer magus in the group will have an easy time doing this. But I want them to see things from another perspective. They will still be able to use magic, but with stiff penalties without words and gestures. :slight_smile:


F is right (and with a name like that, he should know) - ferrets are more closely related to badgers and wolverines than rats and rabbits. Take a cat, add a permanent rough-and-tumble sense of humour and territorialism, and you've gotcher ferret.

Altho' they may indeed "die like rats" when targeted by a competent mage.

I think one of the main reasons I like Calabeis is the fact that I've seen so many downright dull dungeons in other rpgs, with hordes of goblins to kill. I really liked the fact that this "dungeon" is inhabited by creatures with personality, and you have to think, be diplomatic, and even ally yourself with them. I think this adventure really looses a big part of it if the magi just go in and kill everything that moves. Of course my players don't dare to do that, since they all know how much I love ferrets :smiling_imp:


Also, add a sort of hyperactivity that you don't see in cats.

And of course, ferrets are compulsive kleptomaniacs. I have to remember to bring this over to the Hrools. :slight_smile: