Reviewing subrosa #8

A review of Subrosa #8 by... me :smiley:

I finally had time to read it entirely, so here it comes, my little review of #8.

What is on the agenda? (the "[]" stuff is mine)

  • the classical under the rose, [preview]
  • the news from the line editor [interview]
  • a storyguide handbook [handbook]
  • the way of st james [adventure/storyseeds]
  • from the journal of vulcanis argens [storyseeds]
  • an article about magical art [interview]
  • a new legend of the order, Belin of Mercere [adventure/storyseeds]
  • an interview with Lisa Stevens [interview]
  • a companion [NPC/storyseeds]
  • and the mappa mundi thread. [various]

I'll start in the order with articles for which I feel like it would be nice to comment.

  1. News from David chart.

Personally, one of my favorite piece of this subrosa. This time, as opposite to the previous one, David is not giving us ideas about the upcoming supplements (perhaps because this issue was scheduled for long ago ^^) but rather on his own vision about Ars. And I must say, even if the article only take 1 page, I like what I read. Having started with this edition to play ars... I enjoy reading what David says about the game I like!
Concretly, he speaks about his vision of the game, and compare it a bit with other game. He also explains why there are some huge gaps in the current magic rules, and assumes that all limits (except the limit of time which creates powergaming problems) are made for the player to break them and find improvements of magic theory. I like it.


  1. SG handbook
    As usual SG handbook is about an issue the SG will, one day or another, have. And this time, it's about... "preparing for trouble". IE: combat encounter.

And I liked the explanations. The author explains WHY combat encounters are so important (focus and gather), but alos WHY combat encounters should not be too long (disconcentration). He gives ideas about the planning, how to try to size up the opposition, and what can be done with the terrain and environment. As for combat, in general, I think Lords of Men is a very good supplement which adresses many questions and this article may be used in addition to that book.
The author also gives ideas of botches (which is interesting because we all lack the "what will this botch be" answer in crucial times!).
He also adresses the "group" problematic (which can make magi unstoppable by mundane army) and wards.
Finally, he uses some tips from other systems to provide ideas to use in your favorite Ars game.


  1. The way of saint james (scenario)

This article adresses an adventure relative to the new book "the church". As usual with the adventures in subrosa I think, a lot of information are provided but some references to templates are done.
It is located in Spain and may be hard to move in another tribunal unless changing all the places.

Because it uses a lot of church mechanism, those are heavily expanded. Which, for those who owns the book, will sound redundant... but for those who haven't that book, it will be very useful to enjoy some nice little touches of detail!

A lot of story seeds for other ideas are provided, which could turn into a big campain theme!

The adventure looks interesting, I will have to read it many times before trying to play it with my troupe.


  1. from the journal of Vulcanis argens

Perhaps it is becoming a "routine" of subrosa, but this article, about the journal of a magus, does what it always does: gives ideas of names, places, adventures, storyseeds, magical objects, quests... as would do any fantasy book.

In itself, it is only "text", but any SG could try to transform it in adventures. And since the theme is ALREADY "ars magica"... the turning is really easy!


  1. An interview with Grey Thornberry

The man is an artist, responsible for many covertures (all of them? I'm not sure). Yes, his art is really nice (I personnaly adore the mysteries, the infernal the mysteries, the lion and the lily, hedge magic and ROP faerie.
But I have something to say about the article. It's not bad in itself, and the fact that it takes like 10 pages is not a bother since subrosa is not limited by pages. But for people like me, who enjoy seeing a drawing, but are not in drawing themselves, it felt like "1 step of the drawing process by page" is too much. For those artists among us... go for it! it may be interesting. But I'm not sure. I mean, if you want drawing courses, wouldn't you find better ones on the web?
Personnally I liked the evolution, but did not read all the texts and "how to" stuff.

The interview in itself is interesting, but I must say that I generally do not really much pay attention to the writers/authers real personalities. I enjoy what they do for my favorite games, but that's all.
Alas, this is the kind of thing which I think you read once, then never read again (at the opposite of adventures or settings or whatever) and it decreases its value IMO.

  1. A new legend of the order

This adventure is set - I did not read it in details since it seems to adresss a period I do not play with - in the early years of the order.
As such, I have seen interesting notes about events which occured in those years, something useful to any SG wanting to colour his BG.
However, if you do not play in the early years, I fear this adventure would be hard to translate to a "normal" time lined game.

However, the details of the adventure itself (new virtues, items, abilities...) are huge. And the adventure does 22 pages! I think any SG could find interesting ideas, even if the adventure is unplayable in itself due to its time frame.

7/10 (and I did not even read it carefully!)

  1. Interview with Lisa Stevens

Another interview. I'd say two are too much. But however, even if i do not care about the person, reading something about "why is Ars the way it was in 1st edition" felt... nostalgic and a bit interesting.
The fact that the "founders" did think about "there are many way to do something" is interesting, and the article may serve as an interesting "eyes opener" for some people.
However, I would not reread such part which decrease its rating.

Note: I was a starwars fan before reading it, but didn't know about the "who first shot" issue. Han did. Of course. The opposite is just unbelievable!.


  1. Companion Piece: Bohemond of Lucern

A new "classical type of article"? I hope so!
Here, we have a companion, and he is described: sheet, history, how to improve him... Stories... Really a great idea either for any player wanting a knight, or for any SG wanting a "ready" story with NPC.


  1. Mappa mundi

the "various" article of Subrosa.
Personally I enjoy reading it. It talks about things which I really don't use (metacreator, mapping tools, documents and notes on the web like evernote which we discussed on this board some months ago :smiley:) and smartphones/tablets. But it's interesting to read what is done in the world for our favorite game!

  1. Next issue

Yummy yummy.

  • founding one's covenant
  • IRL medieval texts to use
  • playing second edition (I like the nostalgic feeling of it ^^)
  • companion piece: a pious man friend with wizards! and with a God-given cause! Oh His God!

This issue brought me a lot of adventures/story seeds (I like that) and a companion to use. However, I have read 2 interviews, for only 1 "handbook". But the adventures are totally worth it, and finally, with or without the two interviews, you would pay the same price. So go for it, and you may even learn things about Ars you didn't know by reading those interviews of insiders!

General note: 8/10 (for the issue #8... classical!)

Just a note of clarification-- the Belin adventure is set for any timeframe after Belin-- so probably any time post 900AD. I can see how the opening might be a little confusing, but while it goes through aspects of Belin's past, it is not necessary to set the adventure in any period except post 900AD. (And I think Insatella is actually the current Prima of Mercere in 1220.)

Regardless, thank you for your review! We really appreciate it. When SR#9 comes out in January, we'll hook you up! :smiley:


EDIT: And now to go link this to the collected reviews!

review number 2 :slight_smile:

Sub Rosa #8

As usual, it is much easier to criticize something than to write it, so take that with my extreme THANK YOU to all the contributors to Sub Rosa for their great work. :slight_smile:

Overall, an excellent issue. And a faster one, as David Chart points out :slight_smile: I liked this issue for several points. Read and learn why :slight_smile: In general, I think that SR is getting better with time. Some of the pieces are more than "ArM5 book" level pieces, and some others fall into the "very useful/interesting" stuff. Well done!

News from the Line editor (David Chart)
Vision of the basic world design parameters by the line editor. Since in this issue Mr Chart is scrambling to find something to write about instead of poisoning our will so that we HAVE TO run to the nearest RPG store to buy an Ars Magica supplement (curse you DC!! :stuck_out_tongue: ) he has decided to share with us some insight on how he envisions the line of work in ArM5. It is interesting. I do not share some of his points, but it is interesting none the less. Thanks for sharing.

Storyguide’s handbook: preparing for trouble (Gerald wylie)
Gerald Wylie brings us some ideas on how to approach combat. A lot of people (my troupe included) approaches combat with some trepidation and smack the head of the opposition yelling savagely for a while (usually 15-20 minutes of real world time) until it is over for one reason or another. Mr Wylie shows us a way to structure such acts somewhat more. It is exactly what the name says: a storyguide handbook. The players will probably not really notice that anything has changed, but it might allow you (the SG) to plan the scene in a more structured way. Most of you will already be doing this on a practical level, and milking other sources of inspiration but this brings some more focus and structure to the scene. I found the previous one on visions to be more useful on a practical level, but I liked this one as well. T>he hints on how to improve group combat were something that had not occured to me before reading this, though, so kudos :slight_smile:

The Way of Saint James (Ben McFarland)
Ben brings us a series of 3 potential encounters, both mundane and supernatural (but tending towards the supernatural) to be had in the pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostela. This has the advantage of being approached from 2 perspectives. On one hand he provides the guidelines to make the encounters into a pilgrimage by the rules that appear in The Church. I do not like those rules myself, but I am sure others will appreciate them. On the other hand the encounters can also be had like normal gaming sessions. They can even be moved to other locations without much effort, but they introduce a pair of supernatural creatures that are specific to the region, so they are better if you place them in northern Iberia.

The only thing I did not like was that the legend of the saint that is linked to one of the encounters was not explained. But that is a totally minor point. Kudos to ben for 3 well thought encounters.

From the Journal of Vulcanis Argens (by the uncovered writer)
The journal continues in this issue. This is one that is grounded in the mundane realm once again, after the one that went along a high drugs trip in the magic realm (this is why I don’t like much the magic realm myself). In this case, a tribunal session and a trip to Sherwood forest. I found the tribunal very entertaining read, seeing different points of view. My troupe is much more proactive there, since we take tribunal to be a high drama experience for us, so looping at how most magi are likely to really attend a tribunal (not giving crap about 80% of the issues there) is a good idea. The trip to Sherwood was interesting as well.

Magical Art: an interview with Grey Thornberry (by Mark Lawford)
I must confess that the Art in the books is something I like, but I do not pay much attention to it most of the time. I know the work of most people that write in the books, but I do not pay much attention on who is drawing in the books. Well, that might change. This interview with one of the main Ars artists was quite enlightening about what comes into making such pieces. I liked it. Thanks.

A New Legend of the Order: Belin of Mercere (Erik Dahl)
OMG. This is amazing! Quite an inspiring series of adventures linked by background on the first Prima of Mercere. The background twists are very good. I found Ophilo really inspiring, especially his twilight scars; they are full of roleplaying potential! I found the power of Legend Spinning inspiring from a descriptive point of view, but too complicated mechanically. I think this of most rules in the ArM5 supplements, so no biggie. This virtue will not be brought into my saga outside the control of the SG (so no rules needed IMS due to SG fiat). It might get some use though. The fact that it brings consequences to a certain deal with faeries is a very good plot twist. It is a true power article in this series. Be careful about the redcaps, though since their powers can tear apart quite a few covenant forces with ease in an open field battle.

Magic of the Founders: an interview with Lisa Stevens (by Ben McFarland)
This interview is just amazing. The insight about the early Lion rampant game design/gaming sessions is really interesting. I have to say that the free play that Lisa Stevens brings forward is the kind of play I like. The story matters, the rules do not. Or should not be the focus, at least. Most current RPG (and sadly, gamers) feel like the numbers and combos is what matter. Bleh :frowning: Kudos to Ben (again!) for bringing us such an interview with a top figure in the RPG world. It did restore my faith in the RPG industry. :slight_smile:

Companion Piece: Bohemond of Lucerne (David Agnew)
William Marshall the Young. Really. At least once Bohemond tries to save his liege and draws the eye of a powerful political entity to himself (in the case of William Marshall it was Eleanor of Aquitaine) he is on his path to greatness and regentship of a realm. Or not, we will see, heheh. That is just an option.

A mundane knight pleading his trade in the tournament circuit. A nice character to introduce the (noble, warrior) mundane world into your saga. Well done!

The backstory and how it drives character development along his life (get land, get wife, get children, get powerful…) is very well done. It is likely that this character will appear in our upcoming saga, since we plan for it to be more mundane. The only thing I did not fully like was his Fragile Constitution, since it is difficult to plead the tournament circuit if you are wounded, and he is likely to be with such a flaw. A minor issue in any case :slight_smile:

Mapamundi: computer and technological resources
Character sheets, mapping tools, use of smart phones and the best ghost scene EVER, as correctly pointed out in the text. I will have to use that sometime :slight_smile:. Useful and direct to the point, as usual

And thank you, Xavi, for reviewing SR#8! Very considerate of you to include your review here so I don't need to relink the summary page of all the SR reviews here. :smiley:

We'll be hooking you up in January!


There's still one more opportunity out there for a free copy of Sub Rosa #9! Just post a review of SR#8, give us the link at and we'll get you the goods this winter! :smiley:


Thanks for the review. I did get a note back on Bohemond's Fragile Constitution. Here's you review piece for context:

And the explanation:

Fragile Constitution shouldn't interfere with his Martial Abilities, but it does make it harder to recover from wounds. This presents a flaw that Bohemond's magical allies could help him overcome, either through enhancing his armour or through healing magic after the event. It sets up a problem that the magi can resolve - it creates a very quick and simple connection between the knight and the magi.

So there we go, if the player gets tired of his wounds taking longer to heal, he can get his new friends to help him out somehow.