Rogue Mage / Pirate -- story ideas sought

** spoiler alert for players of my Palma Saga **

My players have now begun to establish themselves as a spring covenant in the city of Palma, on the island of Mallorca. They don't have a copy of Aegis (and for some reason haven't thought of it yet), so I will be playing some mischief upon them until they figure it out....

Anyway, the next phase of the plot will involve some sailing adventures around the Mediterranean. There is rampant piracy around the Balearic Islands, and some fun should be had. The idea here is to have a long series of adventures where the characters slowly piece together that a magic-aided band of pirates is led by an rogue hermetic mage (henceforth referred to as RM), who has been marched, but never discovered and terminated. The characters eventually defeat him, and gain much-needed magical supplies for their new covenant (vis sources, summae, etc.)

One twist to this fairly standard plotline is that RM himself is going to visit the new covenant very soon. He has traded with the former owner of the site for vis, and will be surprised to find the new owners are hermetic mages. He'll shift gears quickly, pretending to be a mage from Greece, and be very friendly, etc. He'll have a look around, ply the characters for personal information, and see what kind of defenses they have. I hope the players will think they've met an ally, but he'll end up being the Big Bad several adventures later....

Anyway, I haven't yet begun the outline for this chapter, and am opening this up to a general discussion of what could be fun.

A few specific questions:
(feel free to use the bolded question headings below when you answer....)

The characters have recently gained the loot of an infernal alchemist.
alc1) there are lab notes include communication between the alchemist and RM. What might this be? notes on vis traded (and the location of a vis source)? A place they normally trade? I'd like for there to be a clue in here somewhere.
alc2) RM created a simple amulet for the alchemist that protected him from bad vapors. Unknown to the alchemist, RM also used the amulet as a scrying tool. And now the players have it.... :smiling_imp: I'm wondering your thoughts: What are the advantages / disadvantages to the amulet being a simple arcane connection with which RM uses to scry, or an item that actually has a scrying spell within it?

cov1) There was a spring covenant on Minorca that was destroyed 30-50 years ago. RM was involved in it's destruction, either directly or indirectly. The official story is that it was overrun by Muslim fundamentalists. Was this destruction the reason he's been marched? I’m not sure. Regardless, RM has been very good about keeping hermetic mages away from the Balerics, using rumors, Muslim authorities, etc. … So if he's so good, how do the characters pierce his veil?

lab1) Is it obvious/cheesy for RM to have a lab in a regio underwater? What other interesting locations could there be for the final showdown?

I think that a lot of the outline will fall into place once I create the RM himself and decide WHY he went rogue in the first place. (Is he using the pirates for anything beyond cash resources?) Right now he's a blank canvas. The big arc of the game involves ancient wards that trapped the Titans beneath the earth during the Titanomachy. I'd like this pirate chapter to lead into that arc.
mage1) Perhaps RM was involved in research that led to the discovery of these wards. Does the Order have an interest in keeping this research silent? Was he framed? Since I need the characters to gain much needed supplies from the destruction of the mage, I want him to be dark and hateful, and the characters NEED to destroy him, or at least cause him to flee. What do the characters find in his lab that will lead to this bigger story arc? I don't want to give too much away, but I don't want it to be too obtuse either.
mage2) Maybe this ward research is just a side project of the RM, and his reasons for hating the Order stem from something else entirely. I have some thoughts, but am curious as to any ideas from your collective genius.

Have a great day!

If it's an item there will be an item effect that can be discovered/observed, and traced back to the manufacturer of the item. So (unless the item was manufactured by somebody else) this will identify that RM is scrying against the code. The item must also somehow be communicating back to RM at Arcane Connection Range, which will make him vulnerable.

If it's just an Arcane Connection, then there will still be spell traces / sigils that can be traced --- but can also be shrouded. Spell traces are less permanent and might require slightly more specialized magic to trace than items.

Perhaps by discovering ghosts or people/things lost in regios that know the true story?

If the RM is not above giving tips to the alchemist, then a few margin notes or a letter in a different handwriting about whatever the alchemist was working on would work. Or even a record by the alchemist that "RM suggests I try..." or "tips for further study..."
Otherwise, a record (complete or just a short note) of vis traded, or books, or a request by one of the two for the other to look for some ingredient...

I'm assuming that by scrying spell you mean that the amulet actually sends the information back to the RM somehow.
If the amulet is an arcane connection, then to scry on it requires going through the Aegis. Well, it would if there were one, I expect the alchemist didn't have one. If it has a scrying spell, it is already inside, and there are no obstacle to it sending its information back to the RM (unless the RM is hiding behind his own, of course). In addition, with linked spell, it can actually have two spells, one to scry and one to send the information back to the RM, which takes more space in the amulet but are each lower than a combined spell to do it. So two relatively low-level effects instead of a more difficult one.
If it is an arcane connection, it does not need to be an arcane connection to the RM, the RM could simply have fixed it into a convenient item that he can always ditch if he feels the need, or even hide away where it won't lead to him when he is not using it. If it is a scrying tool, then the amulet itself needs to have a connection back to the RM, and once the players realize that they can do very nasty things to him with it.

There's the clues he left with the alchemist (notes, the scrying amulet).
If he wanted to hide is involvement in the destruction of the spring covenant, then he probably employed some mundane agents to do the obvious work after he disabled the defenses, and they would probably have taken whatever loot they could, but unless he is truly paranoid he would have arranged to get whatever magic items were there. It is just possible that some patient work, or pure luck, can guide the players there. For instance:

  • the players might learn that the covenant had a magic item that mundane plunderers would have ignored (an ordinary looking stone ?), and go looking for it.
  • the players might find some chess pieces (or whatever the covenant might have used to hold vis) containing vis in a local market, trace it back to the spring covenant, and go looking for the rest, which the RM took.
  • One of the mundane agents in the destruction is still alive, but in 30-50 years has had a change of heart and might be willing sell/confess information about it to the players.
    Also, there might be signs of recent/regular harvesting on the vis sources of the islands, and the players might wonder where that vis was going.

It probably won't come as a complete surprise for an island/pirate based saga, but it is hardly obvious. As long as the players have some capacity with underwater work, I wouldn't call it cheesy. If they don't (because you didn't drop enough hint when they were creating them) then it could become a problem.

Well, if they destroy him, they will probably get all his research notes, which may or may not be in code, as well as a library with a large section on the subject (not necessarily useful books, but there would be collections on legends on the Titans, for instance), possibly some artifacts linked to the story arc.
If they only chase him away, the research notes would probably be gone, but the more bulky artifacts and less useful books might be enough to alert the players. In that case, to help them, the books might have cryptic margin notes that reveal the RM's particular interests.

Nothing like a little whiff of infernalism to get marched from the Order. Just trying to learn too much could get you into serious trouble if the wrong quaesitor learned of it, without actually making a bargain with a demon. The obvious unfairness of the judgment, when the RM hadn't actually done anything wrong, could certainly make him bitter.
Or he could actually have been framed for offenses against the Code he did not commit, either as a scapegoat or because he made the wrong enemy.

An island that can only be reached certain days, or perhaps only when different combinations of tide/weather/astronomy etc is just right(if you make it a combination of tide or time of day and weather, RM can use magic to get the required weather, this should make it quite hard for players to find him).

Searching for something perhaps?