Hi there. I was reading some stuff on TSE the other day when I noticed that it says it has Vis aplenty. I had always assumed (not having perused TSE in any depth before) that Thebes would have a similar Vis scarcity as Rome has. This was my mental case because all other tribunals around Rome do not have Vis scarcity. So suddenly the case of Rome was just plain weird.
Besides this being written in a very old and suspect tribunal book, what reasons are there for Rome having a general Vis scarcity wjennthey could export services (3 domus Magnas there, at least one centre of knowledge...) and just import Vis as payment? Since everybody seem to have fair to high levels of Vis sources it is just plain strange that Rome is left in such a situation. I must be missing something.
Any pointers there?
Mainly, it was due to the metaplot of the 3rd edition era.
IIRC, the Tribunal of Rome also explicitly imported Vis from the covenant of Al-Aram(?), in modern day southern Turkey, so between the Thebes and Levant tribunals.
This has puzzled me too. I think the vis scarcity is allegedly caused by the prevalence of the dominion in the Rome tribunal. However this has never sounded very convincing to me. As you say Thebes is rich in vis because of the many ancient sites present throughout the tribunal and Thebes is also very heavily christianized. For me to see that means that the prevalence of vis in Rome and Thebes ought to be comparable.
Rome's a 3rd edition book, so I'd disregard it and do what you want. The Italian peninsula should be full of faerie sites and ancient monuments with strong magical tethers. It might be scarce on large magical auras (except for maybe the roman roads) because it was pretty much heavily settled for long periods of time, but abundant in small magical auras like tombs and temples that the fey have long since abandoned. If there's a vis shortage in the area, it would be due to high Hermetic population and maybe infighting over vis sites.
Rome could also very well be full of Regios containing various legendary sites or roman buildings and settlements in pristine condition.
It's highly likely a ton of auras got 'pinched off' into regiones, though when Rome was sacked, it had largely been ignored by the western emperors for over a century and still hadn't been fully Christianized, given how many times the Altar of Victory was removed from, and restored to, the senate.
We seriously need a covenant that's set up around the long-lost Altar of Victory. It could very well explain the fall of the western empire and the ascendancy of the Order of Hermes. Keep Nike happy!
The point is that there is a lot more vis in Atlas Games than in White Wolf
The primary reason is the prevalence of the divine, considering that 1/3 of Italy is the papal estates and there are monasteries and churches being erected all the time , and a lot of ancient roman temples were simply built over with Christian churches (the Vatican, as I recall, was built over a temple to Apollo) it makes sense, at least for the mainland. Greece, on the other hand, has a lot of islands and a very different theological/political structure, and, honestly, authors who wanted an area that harkened back to ancient times. The Acropolis still stands today, as do ruins of various ancient temples, not merely colosseums, hippodromes and other secular structures.
but as stated before, Rome is not canon, so do what you wish.
Maybe the lack of vis is why White Wolf went under?
Another way to look at it, maybe, is that free and unclaimed vis sources are scarce. In my saga, I have been slowly building a "vis economy". The architects at the center of this emerging system is Hose Mercere and the Redcaps. You could say that, perhaps, vis is scarce to other Roman magi because Harco has a solid locked claim to most of the vis sources in the area. So why do Roman magi import vis instead of bargaining with Harco? Maybe they do to an extent. But also, maybe, these other areas have an abundance of a specific Art, and Roman magi can get the specific vis the need much cheaper from Greece or Turkey.
Also, ToH Rome is set in 1197 I believe. ArM5 is set in 1220, twenty three years later. My saga is up to 1245, almost fifty years later. Things have certainly changed and evolved. The middle ages is a very dynamic and constantly changing era. Another theory could be that, for whatever reason, Rome was suffering a vis shortage that lasted some twenty years. Say, from 1190 to 1210. The problem has since been resolved. In fact, now that I have thought of this idea, this shortage that happened around the turn of the century is what motivated Harco (IMS) to take such an aggressive stance in the vis trade. It ispired the dawn of the Pawnbrokers. Now here we are, 20 (or 50) years later, a generation or two. There may well be an abundance of vis in Italy now. But the magi remember the lean times, and the greed of Harco, so they act miserly and act as if vis was scarce while hording a vast stock in their vault. Kind of like how some wealthy people think they are poor.
or Harco has tied up the vis sources and blames the church, because there is no way the redcaps want to risk the anger of an entire tribunal of actual magic using magi.
if you use aura variation rules it could also be a depletion of auras from back in the roman era when all kinds of magi from before the hermetic era were probably extracting a lot of vis from auras in the area.
Meta game it also serves as an explanation as to why the headquarters of the order are in the Rhine instead of Roman tribunal.
If one feels the need to cling to the idea of Rome being vis poor there's an easy explanation, and that's overpopulation. The peninsula was overpopulated during the Roman empire and they lost all their truly wild areas first to the plow and the Faerie Auras, and then to the Dominion. It's the Bjornaer's nightmare scenario - the Latin peninsula was too successful, too urban.
It's a theme that's easy to carry over to the Hermetic population. House Guernicus, Verditus and Mercere all have their domus magna there. House Jerbiton probably has a papal envoy and support staff. Seekers probably flock to the ancient sites. The Roman Tribunal is crawling with too many magi and being watched by too many Quaestors and they've overburdened the tribunal's resources.
A dearth of vis sources is not the same as a dearth of vis. It just means that magi have to exchange services to gain vis. I like it as a hook to get magi out on errands to provide what is scarce in other Tribunals.
It also plays into the 4th crusade "We don't have many vis sources, the Theban tribunal has lots of vis sources, and they aren't even real hermetic magi, they don't use Latin or follow the code everyone else does. I know, lets take their vis."
though obviously it didn't quite work out that way...
From a narrative standpoint, Rome is low-vis because that seemed an interesting story and was in contrast to places like Hibernia and Thebes where vis is plentiful. It's not so much "what makes sense" as "what is the story we want to tell." I think the explanation was, as others have written here, "the Dominion has ruined most of the magical auras." But that was written before RoP:M, which tells us magical auras grow stronger over time, and before RoP:D which tells us vis in a Divine aura just gains various holy traits.
All of which is to say, if you want to change it, change it!