I have been wanting to run a game set in the early 16th century focusing on exploration in southeast Asia for a while. I had originally intended to run it in 5th edition D&D since it would be easy to recruit players, but I came across my 4th edition Ars Magica book and realized this would put a really interesting spin on the game. After reading the forum for a bit I decided I am going to upgrade to 5th edition and get several sourcebooks, though I don't really want to buy everything until I have actually recruited a group.
In my original conception the game was going to have something of a pulpy feel, lost temples in the jungle, mysterious islands with strange creatures, lost civilizations, vast underground realms, etc. Probably with a dash of Lovecraft as well. I will retain some of this, but with Ars Magica the focus will shift from the looting of strange civilizations to wanting to learn from them. I want to create a world where the players have a reason to explore in order to increase their own magical knowledge, as well as find magical loot.
The game will start just after Cabral's return from India. Probably 1502 or 1503. An magical artifact will have been acquired while in India sourced from points further east. The players are dispatched with a ship and told to set up a covenant to explore the origins of this item and to learn about the magic of the region. They will have some options of where to set up base, but probably they will end up in Melaka or somewhere in Java. I want to give them plenty of time to interact with the local before Albuquerque shows up.
A few questions for the forum. First of all, one of my goals is to make the magic in these areas seem different from Hermetic magic. Some of this is relatively easy, mystic martial arts could seem different just by allowing them to use physical attacks as part of their casting and balancing it with careful spell selection; though it would be much more difficult to produce something that could be balanced for a player as opposed to NPCs. But I wanted more variety then this. What sourcebooks should I focus on getting first that provide rules for different magical traditions? Looking at the game's web page it looks like Ancient Magic, Hedge Magic, and Antagonists all offer different spins on other magical traditions. Which of these would be most useful for providing some variety? Also, which book covers magical traditions in Islam?
Another aspect is I want to provide the players with opportunities to change how magic works based on what they find when exploring. I know from reading forum posts that expanding Hermetic theory is something specifically possible in game, I am not sure which book covers this, however. Is it in Hermetic projects?
Aside from which sourcebooks, does anyone have general tips on running a game in a non-traditional setting and what kind of changes they made to the setting to make it work? One specific area that I think I will need to make changes is that I don't think the standard four realms cosmology is sufficient to capture the variety of beliefs in the setting I am using. Has anyone tried adding an additional realm to capture alternate cosmologies. I know from reading forum posts that a lot of pagan gods are considered fey but this doesn't seem like the route I would want to go with Chinese beliefs, to name one specific instance.
Has anyone run a game set in China, India, or Japan? If so I would like any tips on what they changed to make the game fit better in these cultures. I am pretty good on general history of various southeast Asia countries and China, OK on Japan, and rather weak on Indian history. Though my focus has been on trade rather than the mythology of these areas so I could use ideas specific to magical beliefs.
Also, how easily have people found it to recruit players locally? I haven't tried running a game since moving here and while I haven't had trouble recruiting players before after moving Ars Magica is a relatively obscure game so I am less certain that I can get players for it.
I don't plan to run the game for a while, aside from the pandemic we have a little one who demands too much of my time for me to be able to commit to a game, but given the amount of custom material I am going to have to create I am getting started well in advance of actually recruiting players.