Review: Sub Rosa #1

Hello all,

Ben and Mark seem to have liked my reviews of SR4 and 5, so they asked me if I would like to do similar reviews for the past issues of Sub Rosa. I have always believed that it is MUCH easier to write reviews than original stuff. Any fool like myself can write a review, but only people with "real wood" write original stuff. So I agreed to their request :slight_smile: I hope both the authors and the readers find this useful. I would like to say "thanks" to all the authors for giving us great material to be reviewed in the first place.

Without further ado, here comes Sub Rosa #1's review. Take in mind that I read this 2 years ago or so, so some of the details might have passed my filter even if I have reread (skimmed, more accurately) most of the material:


Under the Rose
In this first issue we got the state of intentions of the ezine: a continuation of the great job done by Hermes Portal. It continues (under new style and direction by the management team, originally under Alex White) the job done, and keeps it up :slight_smile: It also states the not-necessarily-well-known fact that the ezine is somewhat a recruiting ground for new Ars Magica authors.

News from the Line Editor
A nice feature that I do not recall seeing in HP (I might be wrong here) is the fact that Atlas Games is explicitly supporting the project. Atlas has always been supportive of such initiatives, but IIRC only in this project they are directly contributing to the project. This is specially true from the line editor, David Chart, that contributes with sneak peeks into future releases and line decisions in every issue. I find this to be extremely enlightening ezine after ezine. :slight_smile:

Now, on the article content of the first Sub Rosa ezine.

The Art of Courtly Love (Danielle Nichols)
An interesting article about the principles of Courtly Love applied to magi, and the advantages and problems it brings. It is written as a circular piece written to all the magi in the Alpine tribunal. I would assume that these kinds of topics for discussion are fairly common among the magi of the order to encourage research and debate. I didn’t have much idea about the principles of courtly love, so I found this piece both in character and informative.

Covenant Locations: Masada (Ben McFarland)
What the title says: a description of the site of Masada (in the Levant tribunal) in case you fancy putting a tribunal here. It is a fairly impressive site, being the location of a really famous siege by the Romans of an almost unassailable fortress and a collective suicide when the Jewish fortress was about to fall. That springs the covenant’s basic idea. It describes the history, the location and the potential hooks and boons that such a site might have, as well as a pair of story ideas in case you want to build a covenant here or just run some adventures around the site. A nice idea to suggest sites that have both the potential to be your covenant or a site for an adventure.

Hermetic Vignettes (story, Kurt Konegen)
A nice read about covenant life and the hard life during apprenticeship :stuck_out_tongue: It fits great with the Art of Courtly Love article and to have an idea about what apprenticeship might imply. A great piece that inspired me quite a bit. I would like to read more stories like this one more commonly.

The Tartalo (creature + miniadventure, Eric Vesbit)
A mythic creature of the Pyrenees and a related story. It is a really nice creature and encounter. I have played through it successfully. I have played it (resetting it in Hibernia) and the troupe enjoyed it immensely. The creature is not very powerful, so I would suggest going after it with weak characters. In our case it was a group of grogs and a fighter companion knight. It was a tough adventure without much magical support (they had a pair of magic items with them), but they managed to succeed in the adventure, even if they suffered a pair of casaualties. Not a very complicated one, this one, but well designed and easy to integrate in any ongoing saga.

The Knights Templar 1 (Mundane history, Alex White)
This is the first article about the Templars in Sub Rosa. In the following ezines there are articles about the Templars under other designs, marking them as supernatural powers. This is the article that describes them as a mundane force. It describes their history, organization and practices, as well as their role both in Europe and the Levant. The Templars is an organization that we have all read about, but this is a really informed piece. I learned quite a few things about these guys here. It includes rules for playing Templars (V&F for Templar character design), something that is always a boon for some troupes. I prefer my warrior monk organizations to be more mundane than supernatural, so I found this first article to be the best of them all and really useful. It works well with Tales of Mythic Europe and with the 4th edition material on Triamore.

The End of the Hohenstaufen, part 1 (mundane history, Michael de Verteuil)
Michael has been one of my all-time referents when it comes to learned people about the medieval setting since 4th edition and the berserklist (Berkley mail list). Here he talks about the family of one of the most important families in the Holy Roman Empire, and how the family was destroyed after the fall of Frederick II Barbarossa in 1250. This first part is about an overview of the family’s history since the year 1000 more or less to 1240, just before the death of Frederick II, and sets the plot for the real “end of the Hohenstaufen” article in Sub Rosa #2. A very nice read about a family that I only knew were an important Elector political party, and that had held the imperial title for some time.

The Florilogium of House Bjornaer (Mark Shirley)
Mark Shirley is the author of the Bjornaer chapter of Houses of Hermes: Mystery Cults. As such, this is a first hand account of how the House was designed and thought about. You might agree or not with the decisions, but it is always interesting to have a look at the thought process. He also brings us extra material that was cut from HoH:MC (damn word count limits!). I am not too keen on the bjornaer, neither in this edition nor in previous ones (I prefer the exmiscellaneas for my "forest dudes"), but it is always nice to know the "why".

OVERALL IMPRESSION OF SR#1. It is an issue that is heavy in mundane history, with nice background pieces on the Order of Hermes (vignettes & courtly love), and a pair of adventure locations.

Hope you find this review useful. :slight_smile: I will try to review the other 3 issues of Sub Rosa as soon as I can.


Thanks for the review, Xavi! We really appreciate you taking the time to review SR.

I'm looking forward to your future reviews!


I'm flattered, Xavi, thank you. The submission guideines after this issue specifically said that the magazine was not interested in further such submissions. If Ben and Mark are open to it, I would be happy to write more submissions as time allows. I'm just starting out with creative writing, though, so I'm OK if their standards are higher than my ability and they would prefer others.


We're up for anything that might be of interest to the Ars Magica crowd. One of the values of small self-contained vignettes is that they can suggest stories, events, and characters to enterprising players and storyguides without slapping a box around them and calling them "story seeds".

Personally, I'd be very happy to have more of this; it's all part of the balance.

Mail me off-list if it's something you'd like to do.



Forgot to mention this

I have used those characters (slightly modified) for Temporis, one of the covenants in Hibernia that we visited (spent a season there and had a mini-story) in the current saga. So yes, it is great for that kind of stuff.

BTW: I do that all the time. Instead of inventing new personalities myself, I scour the internet for sagas by other people and use them as NPCs for my saga. The final result is usually covenants that are better fleshed out than what I could achieve myself. For secondary covenants it tends to work great.