Review on Subrosa #7

I just bought the Sub Rosa freezine and started reading the seventh issue, which had interested me since I read he contained something on Mongols (because I ran a saga online about them, and wanted to see more materials - what is in the Dragon and the bear and Ancient Magic was good, but not up to date and only mundane).

So I quickly started to read them and... I felt that there was more to say than just about the Mongols.

So here is my review.

All begin with News from the line editor. I expected blablah about books, advertizing and boring stuff. Fool me.

First, I discovered David Chart's note. And it was really enjoyable to read. From one part, I was one of those who thought that "Legend of Hermes" was not really worth his title since the 5 magi didn't seem really legendary at all, and that little text from Mr. Chart totally convinced me. He explains why that book is not about the mythic figures we all know (personally, I would have loved to hear more about Notatus, Apromor and Quendalon, for example), and why it is about magi who are known, not by us, but by our magi. From another part, this finally explain what I was suspecting about Diedne, but it was nice to read it black on white : no unravelling the mystery, but only hints and details. From a third part, it convinced me to buy the Church source book because he explained there was a part about the infernally corrupt churchmen... something I often use in the IRL sagas I'm BSG, but without any rule for it.

I may seem a lot enthusiast about that,... and I truly am. This page 5 convinced me to buy two books I didn't intent. Nicely written. So, yes, I must admit: when i turned my pages to find the next article, I was totally expecting very good material...

And there, a second slap! The magi of Thebes by Yan Prado. I did already open and read a bit the excel table which come with the issue, but I was like "mmmh, what is this?". Since my IRL saga is based in Thebes (and we started this saga just before the book was published ... we debated the merits of Rhine and Thebes, and I presented the incoming publication of The Sundered Eagle (TSE like Yan say) like the big argument to chose Thebes... I did right, this book is fantastic, buy it if you didn't do it until now!) reading that article, I was "OH MY GOD".
I'm BSG in that saga, but I handle what is hermetic politic, and we just ad our first tribunal - the one of 1207, since we started the saga in 1200 to enjoy the pleasure of the 4th crusade -. I add nothing very important done BUT i was like "now i need to invest in that stuff, and decide the new archai". I already rolled and none of the PC's was chosen by lot... but now, thanks to Yan and his table, I can just enhance it and keep stuff. Thanks Yan, your two pages article is great!

After those two slaps in my face, (and I only read 7 pages of 76... imagine how I felt at the time!) I was expecting nothing but the best...

And page 8 open an article ... The SG handbook: the enemy within which treats possession.
SLAP again!

OMG like they say.

I always find possession to be the true weapon of devils, because, like we all know, any magus dedicated enough can kill demon. But what good is to be able to kill any demon if you can't find them? And demons are deceptions alive... and possession is the biggest deception.
On this forum, there was one thread when somebody told that if the hermetic magic was a lie from the beginning - and that demons were using their powers to make the magi indulge in sins (Pride and so on) -, NOBODY could know it. I liked the idea, even if too hard to really play in any saga I manage.
But posssessing is a useful thing to use, AND it provides: dilemns (will the PC's kill that possessed NPC ? Is he really possessed? Why wouldn't the exorcist who say such be possessed?) and hooks. Indeed, magi think their aegis is the most perfect anti intrusion weapon... but, like Yan explains, not against the energumens! So there we are. Yan provides a good exploration of those energumens and their interactions with the most obvious threats: hermetic magic, relic, supernatural power and exorcism.

Already two articles (the editor lines does not count in this regard), and they already provide ideas I can use in sagas where I'm SG and even player : i do indeed play one demon hunter in a IRL saga, and this second article gave me ideas about new spells/breakthroughs to do to enhance my magus' abilities to kill energumens and above everything, on the way to prevent them to do anything wrong.

After that is the Mappa Mundi article, but since I don't use music in my games, nor I'm interested in it, and because I don't watch podcasts or streaming thing, I zapped it.

Then come The Story of Nelda’s Lament by Mark Lawford.
It's an adventure, in brief classical, with full details of characters, and a setting. From the given opponents and setting, it would only fit for companions or newly gauntleted magi. I do think that any experienced magus will quickly unravell the mystery of Eagar - using mentem magic to make him talk or vim magic to coerce him. A general thing I noticed is that some rolls are given. While it seem a classical thing for ars magica adventures book (it was also done in Tales of Mythic Europe), I personnaly always find them not necessary. If the troupe wants to break the door, I assume any SG can use his normal ease factor for such act.
Having never played What Lies Beneath - but knowing a little about it since I read it with interest - I think this introduction scenario can be used, but it would need some time to pass between both adventures, should the new vis source play a role in What Lies Beneath.
I think that a SG could also improve the story by adding something related to Nelda's background : we are said that her husband was maybe dead... but is he? Maybe he is imprisonned in a faerie regio... regio from where the faerie Eadgar come ? Was the first Eadgar the same faerie? How many girls did he lead to death in the marsh? Is he really a faerie? Isn't he possessed by a demon (and we can add the previous insight about that)...
I think that the scenario is short, and since my IRL theban troupe (the more likely saga in which I could play it) like scenarios who take +- 10-12 hours, I would expand it. For example, making the magi/companions discover a plot in the priory... maybe construction plans or letters with the architect about the Marsh (and introducing already the What Lies Beneath Intrigue)...
Curiously, Eadgar is a faerie without (nor sovereign or traditional) ward and we lack any idea why for. It can be to let each SG invent one, fitting the style of the troupe.
[size=50]I noticed that characters are presented in the usual Tales of Mythic Europe way, which is not bad. But I'm wondering why always add "kick/punch" stats. Some NPC sheets have typos (a +2 from puissant ability not written, or a specialization forgotten) but nothing which would make them unplayable.[/size]

Then comes a page about Grand tribunal with full information for those who want to join. However this sentence "Babes in arms may be classified as hand luggage, at the committee’s discretion" is just too fun to not mention. Come with babes, guys, they may be classified as hand luggage :smiley: [size=80]I guess it was "babies", but since I'm not english native, I wouldn't be too sure... maybe it's a joke ^^[/size]

Next is From The Journal of Vulcanis Argens. It's not an adventure, nor a character. But just a diary, providing some kind of tale. The ideas depicted can be used as adventure, background or other. Maybe reuse the character.
I liked the art, but missed a little they weren't more alike: I detected two different drawing styles.
(A general note is that it's too bad that the drawer of each image has not his name in legend or in the summary.)

After that part is the Beyond the Fields We Know: (as I'm a newcomer to Subrosa, I think this is a classical part of each issue?) dedicated to: Rűűbezahl faerie.
I liked the idea behind the faerie and the author, Timothy Ferguson, seems to know his subject and the ideas of stories that are subjected by the background information are really interesting. ("How come there is no air elemental near this area? we need one!"...)
I had a remark about this article, it's that on the second page, it's too bad the picture is so large that the text column is so narrow and hard to read. The picture is from a drawer style I like a lot however : it gives ideas just by looking at it.

The next article is The Ghost in the Snow by Robin Bland. It's about Muspelli. I have bought the book, and if I managed to read the Amazons part, I was so confused by the brotherhood of August that I never went on. But from what I still eyedroped in the muspellis and Soqotran (can't remember their name ^^) traditions... they were interesting and I promised to myself to try again later... maybe I will now that I have read this article, since the art of the first page is just majestic.

The article provides a summary of the rules for Muspelli. Simple and easy enough to give desire to those who haven't the book to buy it, and to those who have it but haven't read that chapter to do it (such as myself ^^).

The scenario Precis which follows made me thought about the Thor movie (which is obviously speaking of Jotunheim too ^^). The expeting sequence of play presents events and states ease factors for much things. NPC are this time not fully described but referred to canon books, with emphasis on their personality traits, which is not bad at all.
The "villain" is interesting. We can see the author found an interesting way to present a challenge for hermetic magi.
The fact that this is an adventure mixing multiple intervenants and possible alliances/enmities is for our greater pleasure.

(This review seems pretty long, isn't it? but the issue 7 is long, for our maximum pleasure :smiley: :smiley:.)

Next article, the city of Bruges, by Sheila Thomas. Since I live in Belgium and I did visit that city many times, and that no saga I'm SG'ing involve that part of Mythic Europe, I skimmed through the article but it seemed pretty interesting, with even photographies. Good point for those who haven't like me the Church book, it seems the article does use it to develop ideas and apply those mechanics. Good point, good job.

Aaah finally, the part for which I wanted to buy this issue, and the reason why I finally bought the full subrosa material... More mythic mongols by Yair Rezek. Yay!
The author chose the "infernal" Mongols. It's not the one I would have favored if I had known of the previous ideas about Mongols, but since the saga I ran online, which is about Mongols, is mostly based the mundane mongols, I could use it without too much troubles.
Very few "houseruling" is done, and most of it are coherent with the background given to Mongols.
Like in ROPtI, there are examples of Maleficia. Since the author is well aware that the maleficia are "spontaneous magic" (he mentions it), it was a good idea, since that gives common "mongolian" magic without being redundant with actual maleficia. SG's wanting to improve those can devise their own maleficia.
The matriarchs are given a method of complex creation, which seems fair. (I'm a little interrogative about the (declared by author) lack of books for high levels in methods and powers abilities. Why wouldn't they have such if they are an old tradition? why aren't the old matriarches perfect teachers for the new ones?)
[size=50]Side note, the author finds an average solution for warping and forsaken duration maleficia's (mostly from infernal blessing virtues) which is not bad: 3 points per year, not taking the real number of blessings/maleficia.[/size]
As opponents, matriarchs are powerful if together. Alone, they are easy target. The main issue for a SG will be to create situations where hermetic magic do not always face one or the other situation.

This article is interesting since it focus about a covenant of PC being the center of the opposition against Mongol hoard (and the game I have is something like that, so it was a good thing I bought this issue!). Ideas, advices are given. I even spotted ideas I had for my own game, so that it will even be easier to integrate that I thought!

I really enjoyed all the ideas. This article is 15 pages long, and I highly recommend it to any player with interest in a Novgorod saga focused on Mongols. It doesn't provide historical facts about Mongols - you should rather use Wikipedia or other sourcebooks - but it gives neat ideas for the magical tradition from the Mongolians themselves.
Since Mongolian armies are full of other people... you are not limited, thus it's a great asset to any saga!

Finally, to end this review, the last article: The Little Black Book: Playing EditionPlaying Ars Magica First Edition. Since I began playing with the 5th edition, I do know very few of other editions, especially 1st, 2d and 3d. I have only skimmed through that article since I ran out of time and wasn't so interested in nostalgia for old editions. But from what I saw while skimming, it seemed pretty accurate with comparative between editions, and nice little comments about the oddness or particularities of 1st edition from the author. At page 68 is introduced the scenario that troupe used for their game in 1st edition. For those who would be interested to try the experience, an annex to subrosa magazine give you sheets of 1st edition (which can be found on this forum as well I think, but it's nice to have them gathered with the fanzine).

The last page presents us what will come next. And personaly, when I read "The Storyguide’s Handbook: Preparing for Trouble" and the super interesting "The Art of Magic"... i'm waiting impatiently.

So, to close this review, I'd say this.

This was the first fanzine I bought for my prefered roleplaying game, and I started with the 7th issue for their Mythic Mongol article. I immediatly devoured the fanzine: the article and excel worksheet for the Theban tribunal will be of immediate use, the article about possession gives insight and ideas to use in any kind of saga. The Mongol material was excellent and I'm impatient to use it. The adventure seemed really short but adaptible and is a nice introduction to one of the most interesting adventures of Tales of Mythic Europe, perhaps introducing a campaign about the Devil, the Church and the Mundanes... which would let the player use the material about Bruges as well!
Finally, for those who are interested by comparison between editions, there is the shock of generations: 1st edition vs 5th edition, and a full detailed adventure.

For only $ 4,50 US, it was totally worth his price and I recommend it highly to any player.

But it is blahblah about books and advertising stuff.

See? It worked.

1 Like

Thanks for taking the time to review Sub Rosa! We'll hook you up when SR#8 rolls out. :smiley:


Kudos to Ben and Mark (and the authors/artists!) for getting Sub Rosa 7 out the door.


Aha! My infernal schemes have borne fruit...

By the books, it's a little generous. But the SG can change that if he wants to. I felt they needed the XP.

The mongols were originally an illiterate society. The fist writing in Mongolian was done in 1204, by a Chinese scribe that was taken as a prisoner of war. I reckoned the Matriarchy was older, and would preserve the Old Ways.

One thing made me wonder: The thing about supressing someone's true faith. Can divine virtues be targeted and supressed by infernal powers? especially True Faith? As a test of faith coming from god, sure, but as this, this seems strange.

Overall, I liked this paragraph, but for some the liberties taken with the rules. Not so much the change of method (this is mostly cosmetic), but more for allowing some powers to do things usually reserved for other powers. This is fine for a particular game, but, for something supposed to be usable in anyone's campain, I think it's better to use RAW when raw applies as much as posssible instead of house rules.
I see this as writing a book for Ars: Expanding things is fine, clarifying is great, but contradicting older books is, IMO, not so great (although, of course, we live in a very imperfect world)

By RAW, it appears possible :smiling_imp: Of course, the SG can rule otherwise and in any case direct divine intervention is the ultimate trump card.

When writing official line books, this is indeed the right policy. But for writing fan-material, I hold only to the fundamental rule of gaming: have fun. If the rules get in the way of fun, I get away from the rules. This is especially true for NPCs, which I don't reckon need follow the rules for PCs anyway. I thought the changes made the Matriarchy more interesting, and made them serve the game better - hence, I made them.

Of course, an SG can always remake them in the image of the RoPI RAW, if he desires.


I have to agree with Yair-- a fanzine is a great place to do some experimenting with mechanics and design. I'd encourage folks to push boundaries and try new ideas in Sub Rosa. That kind of experimentation is how we see evolutions of the game, and it certainly had to have happened previously, or we wouldn't see the changes in things like Parma Magica.

Who knows, maybe later on we can put together a patronage project for Ars Magica with the appropriate blessings and explore a few odd ideas.


I have to agree with Yair as well. If Sub Rosa can't take cool ideas that don't fit line policy, where can I tell authors to put them?


I just find it unfair that, for exemple (I don't recall the specifics, so this is a purely deconnected exemple) a player diabolist might have to, say, take summoning and binding in order to summon and bind a spirit to him (forgetting the other uses of binding), while an entire tradition of NPCs would be allowed to do this with just summoning.
It feels like saying him "If only you had said your diabolist were a mongol, you could have saved a virtue slot".

But we do that all the time-- if only your magus was a Bonisagus, you could have saved the virtue for puissant MT, for instance. Certainly, when you make a choice like playing a Mongol diabolist, there are going to be allowances made; you have benefits and limitations associated with the decision. I think of it in those terms and it seems acceptable to me. YMMV.


:shrug: As LB said, we do it all the time. And it's not like the Matriarchy gets all kinds of Crazy Cool Powers - it's just tiny variations to wound them up better around their themes. Really, I didn't try to make them UberPowerful [Ceremony already does that...], just Thematic & Interesting.

At any rate, what's done is done :smiley: I hope you found some measure of fun reading their write-up, at least. :slight_smile:


I have played the story Nelda's Lament.

Our saga is set in Thebes, and our covenant is on the island of Mykonos, not far from Naxos, capital of the duchy of Naxos. We are in year 1208, at the moment, Marco Sanudo is Duke but is in Candia, fighting with his Venitian mates against Genoese who landed on the island 2 years ago.

I introduced the story by an Angel, the guardian angel of Anna Ghisi, daughter of Jeremiah Ghisi, lord of Mykonos (and some other unimportants islands of the Cyclad) with his brother Andrea. The angel, undercover, presented himself as a clerk novice of a priory, working for the Ghisi family. He explained the disappearance of Anna with Eadgar the storyteller, and their probable destination Naxos and the priory, where they would have asked for asile.

Why would the magi care? In our saga we have superiors, so that's why they would care, because our legates said it to them, but also because the situation is tense: Venetians are newcomers, catholics, and even if Marco Sanudo is a smart man and tolerates Orthodox religion, there is a palpable tension between both Greeks and VEnetians, and a little would suffice to let that explode in a conflict or civil war, which neither political side want (Archontes and popes for the greeks and the Duke and the catholic).
THey went there, but arrived too late (they crossed Jeremiah Ghisi on his way back from the priory to Potamides, capital of Naxos, but at the time, didn't react since the magus who has second sight, due to the divine aura around the priory, didn't stpo the cushion!

At the priory, discovery of the dead body. They don't think at searching the room, so miss Anna's body under the bed (where she was hidden on Eadgar advice). Eadgar played his dead role but they finally found out he was alive (after stealing his body to do examinations in the countryside, far from the divine aura... and near the Apalyrou stronghold, where Templars have taken their quarter). During the afternoon, our weapon master find tracks from the chapel to the entrance of the priory. THose are Anna's which, waking up, didn't find Eadgar, then went to the chapel, see his body, and desperate, used his fresh story tale of Nelda's lament (told by Eadgar, curiously!) and went to the Marsh... She is a little girl, it took time.

FInally, in the countryside, Eadgar let them see he was alive, and he said "bye bye" before they could gather information on the story. Our Flambeau tried to stop him, but due to the fact he is known to not be afraid to deal with demons in a forbidden way, and suspecting that being could have been a demon, our Ex Miscellanea Pharmacopean blocked incognito his path with entwipping vines.
Eadgar flew. He was heading to the marsh, where he would see Anna kills herself.

At the moment, my PCs thought it was over: nobody was killed, the girl was retrieved. Yes, they miss out all clues!
So I made the angel intervene (after all, he was Anna's guardian angel and worried for her soul if she really commited suicide). He can't say "go there", due to free will and all that stuff, so I made him tell the story (yes, none of the 3 players actually has faerie or area lore high enough to know whatever about faeries or them taking roles!!).

They decide to return to Mykonos, to the chora, to see Jeremiah Ghisi and check the girl, since they fear she would still want to kill herself.
They arrive, discussion with pople, finally they discover the girl is missing! But find a cushion in the closed room of the girl (a cushion from the priory nonetheless!).
At the same time, our Flambeau seem to discern the pattern (finally!).

they go to the marsh, but being magi, they use the unusual path, so they are in the wrong side of the marsh (where it's the harder to walk... they have used ReCo to walk on water... and yet they were wondering why they don't find the girl in those place...). I let them roll again an area lore, and a player roll a 15 finally (with a confidence point however) : "Hey guy, the girl canno't walk on water. SHe is mundane, and if you came by east, the part of the marsh on the sea side, she would have come by west: the part of the marsh in the moor!!).
They cross the marsh, the flambeau exerts himself to recast the waling on water spell, botch (double confirmation) on the weapon master, he starts to suffocate (ward against air ^^), the flambeau is unconscious and the Pharmacopean after 2 failed attempts to remediate, is at -5 fatigue...
I introduce a enemy NPC who will ask later a favor, I can have use of it. introduction of Nonna Ex Miscellanea which save all of them. (All that in a few hours!)

Back to the track, they find finally Eadgar outside the forest, asking if the girl is dead, answer "we don't know", he starts gathering information about their wives and such (the weapon master has plagued by faerie ^^ and is married!). Finally, the Flambeau paralize him and beat him to death, stealing his lyre (unaware it hields vis! it was just a trophy).
They found the girl, paralize her before she does anything careless, and with a sleeping potion, the pharmacopean make her sleep. Back to her house, she is treated (she is heavily wounded because she was assaulted in the forest while Eadgar couldn't be there to prepare - he was traped in the chapel, with magi and monks around him! - her path to her suicide site!) and a priest is helping her ideas about suicide.

It wsa fun, since they were really lost even if they had clues. Happily, a guardian angel is useful when it's NPC's one :smiley:.

But, they didn't find the vis source ! I detailed precisely the tear crossing on the mud on the girl face, but it didn't do "tilt".
As they almost died - before the encounter here, they went accross 2 faerie bears which almost killed the weapon master - the pharmacopean did use a CrCo ritual to save him, they will keep those events in memory, for long.