Some Random Campaign Ideas


I love Ars Magica, I really do. In fact I like it so much that pretty much every time I pick up a book and read through it I get another awesome idea for a potential campaign that will probably never be played as I lack people around me that would want to play it. I figured though, after thinking about it for a while, that I might as well post two of the short (in words, not in how epic they would be) campaign ideas that I had. :slight_smile:

I hope you guys find it interesting, and I definitely would not object to your ideas on the points.

(PS. These are not polished theories or anything, they are just some ideas I had and definitely could use some work and further thinking about.)

Idea 1 - Alternate School Founders

The idea for this Campaign is that the players come together to be the Founders of the first great magical school in the known world. The main arc that will start the game is all the preperation for its establishment, not the process of actually teaching newly arrived students the Art of Magic. I would probably start the game set a little before the traditional start, that way the epicness of creating a school that will in theory survive for over a thousand years (if it lasts to the present) can be played out, but that is just me.

This first arc will be based on developing new magic, finding and securing a location, pushing back mundane and supernatural threats, gathering the mystical and mundane resoruces needed, building the school, recruiting and hiring teachers, and finally getting enough students to make the first class actually be successful. So many steps need to be done, and most of them are quite quite campaign worthy. Letting the players choose where the site will be - probably from a somewhat broad list, will let them have a say in where the school is. If they get to communally design its appearance then it will let them have more a feel for it. Same with all the other elements.

To focus the players on the 'mission' to found a school a number of options can be chosen. One way is to have the players establish a backstory in which they have previously corresponded with each other, sharing thoughts and dreams and wishes, and so they all know they have the dream in common. Another idea is to have the player magi be part of a covenant with an elder archmagus who either trained them or was on good terms with them. Maybe on his death bed he brought them all together and asked them to consider it, to see his dream come to fruition. Though he was sorry he wouldn't be around to see it happen.

There are two issues that restrict this sort of campaign, and there are many ways to solve it. The first issue is the one student to teacher restriction about learning the Hermetic Arts. This can be corrected through many different ways, things like virtues or breakthroughs or even just a general change to the rules (allowing Hermetic Arts to be taught like regular Abilities). The second issue is the whole Gift and the social penalty that it creates between mages that do not have the Parma Magica. This also can be modified in a number of ways, though I wouldn't recommend something as major as the Parma Magica being taught in the first year of the school.

An idea that I had was to have the archmagus (mentioned above) discover a breakthrough, one which would create something an alternate Opening of the Arts. Those who had their Arts opened using this new technique would gain two general benefits that older magi do not have and which would make a school possible. The first is that those opened with the technique naturally have no social penalty as it pertains to others that have the Gift, basically its changing it from something gained from the Parma Magica to something gained by the Gift. (This won't effect how mundanes are effected by the Gift, that part is still exists, it just makes it possible to treat child magi as adult magi in the way they can interact without anger, jealosy, fear and rage getting involved.) The second benefit is that due to the social nature of the opening those with this variant are capable of learning the Arts in the same way that everybody else can learn Abilities. Of course, this would have profound changes to the world - but that is the point, the game is about a school being founded, so this is not something that would come as a shock to players entering into the game. As a note, if players and STs are interested, they could always have there be another effect, and this would enable it be like the Subtle Opening in one of the books - it would allow magi to learn other supernatural abilities without having a penalty be imposed based on their Art scores. This would enable those of the school to have an easier time in learning specialized non-Arts magical abilities (so you know to symbolize effects that could be considered ancestrial magic and the like).

The players - who would be the Founders of the school - themselves could have had their Arts opened using this specialized technique. They might not have realized it or thought that anything about it was super special, especially if the archmagus kept it relatively secret. (Heck, a story seed could be one or more of those he tried opening the gifts using his new technique but failed at it could come back all angry and jealous and enraged, maybe even Infernally empowered and seeking revenge).

As a note, there could be an interesting story arch if the players pick a site that has some sort of spirit (be it Magical, Faerie, or even Divine) guardian or genius loci - getting the spirit as an ally and helpful force could make the resulting school have a level of consciousness that could lead to interesting stories and plots. [Picking Divine would be an interesting development, especially if it seems that the Divine doesn't actually object to the plan, and maybe might even help the project along if certain faithful actions are undertaken - but this is a subplot that should only happen if players are interested in such a thing.]

Possible Locations

  • A site in Britain, where aspects of the Old Way still hold power.
  • A site in Germany, where there is still much ancient magic in the forest.
  • A site in the Alps, where the new school could be hidden in the high mountains.
  • A site in Italy, where the presence of mundane politics could give great power to what is being born.
  • A site on an island in the Mediterranean, which is still relatively close to the rest of civilization but also far enough that the school could spread out as much as it needs to.
  • A site in Iberia, a place that combines the Western world with that of the Arab world in much more relative peace than can be said for the Levant.
  • A site in Greece, a place with both elder magic and ancient civilizations both combine.
  • A site in the Holy Land, where the four realms of reality all seem to come together to create a land balanced on a knife point.
  • A site somewhere beyond the straits of Gibralter, in the great Atlantic Ocean, far from civilization but somewhere that ancient myths and legends tell of the great potential for power.
  • A site in the air is chosen, be it an island uplifted from the ground or a castle made to fly.

So that is idea one.

Idea 2 - Roman Foundations of Hermetic Order (Alternate History to an Alternate History)

This one is much shorter as to run it a huge alternate timeline would have to be created. Bascially, the point is that unified theory of magic and thus the Hermetic Arts are formed during the time of Julius Caesar and the rise of the Roman Empire. Basically, before leaving Rome he meets a Roman wizard (whose role is related to Bonisagus) who is starting to research the theory underlying magic. Caesar keeps in contact with the wizard, and overtime sends him some of those he finds who can work magic so they can learn from him and teach him their magic - including a druid he meets in Gaul who teaches spontaneous magic. Because of all the changes Caesar isn't assassinated and the Roman Empire won't collapse. So yeah, supporting the Roman legions, government, and citizenry are the magi of the Comitia Hermes, the empire-wide order of magic. Obviously in a setting like this there won't be any prohibition or negative outlook on a mage being a Court Wizard. In fact it would be expected that a young mage would spend some time working with the legions, the Roman Senate, or one of the provinces. The tribunals that we all know and love would be replaced with the natural Provinces, Diocesis, and Prefectures of the Roman system - however it would form in such an alternate history.

Many of the same campaign possibilities that would occur in the real Ars Magica campaign could occur in this one. That said, an interesting twist would be that without the fall of Rome the Christian religion isn't dominant and so the Divine hasn't truly begun encroaching on Magic and Faerie.

This sort of campaign throws Mythic Europe out of the window, and really would probably work best if one looks at it as a more fantastic campaign than even the standard Ars Magica one. For those who love true alternate history and the idea of Rome never falling, well, it could be pretty fun.

Well, that is it for now. I hope that these ideas are found to be interesting, even discussion and saga creating worthy. And I hope you guys find it as fun to think about as I did in creating the outline.


Interesting ideas.

I particularly like the second one, although I'm not sure I'd change it as drastically as you did, and I'd probably not include Spontaneous Magic in Hermetic Magic, keeping the Druids as the main antagonists to the Empire and the Order in the West, alongside the Gruagach. Birna might never been co opted either, leaving a tradition of German shapeshifters as a potential threat to the North, as well as the Vitkir. I think I'd have the foundation of the Order sometime after the conquest of Egypt, when the mysteries and ancient secrets found there could be added to Roman traditions to create a somewhat unified theory of magic.

I don't know why you say that Christianity would never be dominant, though, unless magic was intrinsically associated with the Roman Gods in some way - and even then, Parma Magica might be a later addition by those crazy early Christians, somehow adapted from Jewish magic. Or maybe the magi become too powerful, taking actual control of the Empire, in a way that the Praetorian Guard could never have dreamed of, leaving would be Emperors to seek the protection of the Dominion in an attempt to reign the magi in.


My main reason is that mechanically I feel it would probably be the best to have the 'present' be set up in such a way that the rules follow exactly as they do in the books, so players just need to know new fluff and not altered mechanics.

One of the interesting elements of Caesar's reign is that he was everywhere, he went to the four corners of the Roman world, exploring and conquering. An idea I have is that in his youth in Rome he met a Roman wizard, the Bonisagus-figure of our alternate timeline, who was seeking the idea of a unified form of magic. While Caesar was on his various adventurers anytime and everytime he found magical documents or even practicing magi who he subdued he might have sent them to the Bonisagus-figure. Due to his support of the early magi Bonisagus had assigned to Caesar his own magical bodyguard, or maybe even trained Caesar in a supernatural ability of one sort or another. Thus the Hermetic Order was founded based on the combination of multiple magical sources.

Of course, as you mentioned, having the Romans have magic their enemies would probably also need magic - though they wouldn't have the Parma Magica and thus would not be as potent. But they would still be a threat, something credible to make stories interesting.

On the Christianity front, I have the belief that a highly potent, successful, strong Roman Empire would not have been as much a fertile ground for Christian belief as the one where the Roman Empire is dying, its legions failing, and its governing apparatus falling to corruption and anarchy. In a time of success people might not see any need or benefit in joining the cult (which it was at the time) which spoke about the paradise one finds after death - when the world the people are living in right now is pretty good, economically viable, and getting better all the time. That said, I could see as the Roman Empire expands it finds itself swallowing other religions and creating something that according to Ars Magica would be represented by the Divine and the Dominion. But this is of course just my opinion on matters, and one's milage may vary on such an alternate history topic. :slight_smile:

Actually, even in regular Ars Magica campaigns I have a lot of love for the idea of players working to find some sort of balance between the Divine and the arcane - to either finding a way to have Magic not be limited by the Dominion or powerful enough to overcome the penalties as if they don't actually exist. Whatever my real beliefs are, in Ars Magica terms I am quite a firm believer in making Magic superior to the other Realms and the Order of Hermes more powerful than the other forces that might exist.

Conversation on School Setting

While I know its been a while since I posted my origonal message, and I have yet to get any opinions on the School Topic. I would like to just make a note that I have continued to work on it.

Instead of directing deciding where the school would be founded, I created a site in each of the Tribunals (plus one in the Mediterranean and one in the Atlantic Ocean) which can be chosen by the players based on what sort of campaign they might want. Example, some of the locations naturally make picking them would have divine or Faerie or Infernal elements to the campaign. One site is underwater so it would involve dealing with that. Another - in Roman Tribunal - is based on a caldera of a volcano, so it might have lava as an interesting plot. The Levant one is in a Pyramid. The Alps one is right be Mount Pilatus and the Mercurian Temple situated there. The Scotland one is in the mountains, basically like a particular magical school most of us have grown up reading. The English one is in Dartmoor, in the marshy plains of that area. The Normandy Tribunal is in the Seven Isles located off the coast. The Rhine Tribunal is in a pit that local superstition says leads to hell, but is really the Broken Covenant. The Novgrod Tribunal is all about a recently crashed flying castle that might be rebuilt to serve as the school. Etc.

One of the things I also did was create a fifteen year student learning system - where each student has three semesters worth of classes, and a fourth summer semester which is where the experience of the adventure that occurs in each year is basically analyzed to give awesome stories. But of course this would only apply if the campaign actually got fast forwarded to after the school had been running for years. It should be noted that with such a long curriculum pretty much every mage would graduate with levels in every Art and pretty much all the necessary abilities. It would make graduates more educated and powerful at start than those magi not trained in the school - which I would consider okay as the entire point of the campaign is the supremacy of the school system and how radical it changes certain elements of the Order.

I was thinking about the whole House thing and how that would work when there is not direct master-to-apprentice style of learning. It doesn't really cause any effect on the four Societies and the four Mystery Cults (students can graduate from the school as full magi and then be propositioned by said eight Houses for membership afterward) but it does effect the True Lineages. After some thought I figured that three of the four are not really that difficult to deal with.

House Bonisagus - Thanks to the rule that says a magus of Bonisagus can take another apprenticeship as their own, I figured some sort of deal would have this power be used to make it so two to four graduating students in each class would become 'apprenticed' to one of the Bonisagus teachers in the school, continuing the House's existence.

House Guernicus - All about the Queasters, I figured that the deal between the school and the House was that there will always be a Quaestor assigned to the school. Said Quaestor (whose main work would be to make sure the school doesn't break the Code) would probably take an apprentice or two from amongst the classes, while also teaching some classes as well.

House Mercer - They still teach master-to-apprentice amongst the magi - which remains the smallest gathering - but the main negotation is that all Redcaps and House Mercer members in general would be allowed open use of the school's facilities and equipment (including library), which would probably boost the capability of the school.

The only one I have no way of actually figuring out, though I would like to find a way to include this True Lineage, is that of House Tremere. My only thought was that maybe the school would hire a House Tremere dueling and warfare specialist who would teach students and take on apprentices, but that seems pretty flimsy. So yeah, I was wondering if anybody had any ideas on this particular topic.

That is it for now, I will probably continue thinking about this. hehe :slight_smile:

Cool ideas !

I set up a page on the wiki inspired by this thread. Feel free to add/expand it.

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Hey YR7, it is awesome that you included on that wiki page. Very cool. :slight_smile:


Classroom Antics

Okay, so I was thinking about while the rules for Ars Magica work for the most part in terms of development, they don't really fully support the concept of schooling. Now, of course, this makes sense as according to the RAW the Arts must be taught one on one and a single student can only learn one thing at a time. But when one gets into a classroom environment it becomes a little more tedious to figure out in-game justifications for certain rule concepts. What I mean is that in a school a student doesn't just have one class that they focus on, they might have four or eight in a single season/semester.

Now, I do not want to alter the system of Advancement or the way that Experience is gained in Ars Magica. Nor do I want there to be a vast pool of EXP which a player can put anywhere they want. I like the idea of playing out the school year and the way that EXP is given out in that system. In general the idea of studying the Creo Art in order to get Creo EXP sounds good to me.

Let us try to explain this in terms of in-game and roleplaying activity, not mechanics.

The biggest thing to do is not require that the Art or Ability the player has on his sheet be the exact Class that the character is taking. Of course sometimes, as in the case for advanced courses, there might be a one for one match. Other times, lore wise, the character is taking a couple of classes but mechanically they all represent the same skill.

This can be as simple as an Elementalism class letting characters learn one of the Arts of Aquam, Auram, Ignem, or Terram. Or a class known as The Techniques letting one choose between Creo, Intellego, Muto, Perdo, or Rego. Or a class called Herbology providing skill in Herbam. There might be five classes that one can choose, but in the end mechanically they all provide Philosophiae experience.

Let us take the Elementalism Class listed above. During the season that the class is being had the student learns about all of the four forms, one period might have them study Terram and the next might be Aquam, or whatever. But at the end of the semester/season when the final grade comes back it became quite noticeable that the student really seemed to pay attention to one of the forms, quite a bit more than he did the others. Mechanically, this means that in that season he gained experience in that particular form. Since characters have access to adventure XP and a small bit of exposure XP they may use said points to boost some of the other Forms, if they want.

This would lead me to come up with a list and a chart of various interesting class ideas and names, and then the Ars Magica Art or Ability that is related to it. It could be used to flesh out the schooling.


Campaign Focus

The first generation campaign using the ideas I posted in this thread are all about the Founding of the School, the process that occurs from the moment the school idea pops into the founders heads to the moment that the first class of students walks into the school and is welcomed by the Headmaster. It would probably be a pretty long process, but I am also pretty sure it could be fun if roleplayed with an air of focus and attention to the entire theme of the story.

Future generations within the campaign world would be all about the students that are being educated in the facility, there time as students and the adventurers they go through while going about it. It could also be what happens after graduation, do they take the lessons learned in the school at heart to make a better Order of Hermes or do they return to the past and the divides that seperated magi into clicks. It is possible, with time jumps, to go all the way to the present - one thousand years in the future from the standard Ars Magica date and you geting your school acceptance notification, it is time to pack your bags and head into the most wonderful place of magic on the Earth. :slight_smile:


While I might seem to have a lot of ideas for this campaign concept, I don't know everything. I am completely interested in hearing story seed ideas, location ideas, campaign plot point ideas, character ideas, new magic ideas, etc. Any suggestions, comments, advice or thoughts are more than welcome - they are wanted! :slight_smile:

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