Sub Rosa #13: The Thirteenth House Unearthed!

This is particularly well timed as I run a game set in 771.

The Gaer Hill letter is just plain amazing. Great revisionism of the info sources! I printed 4 copies of it already to be casually left on the gaming table.

That's great to hear.

Just a bump to remind folks:

The forums here, or even this thread are acceptable places to post your review, in case you're curious!

Because I saw a good deal of discussion regarding the Diedne in another thread, and heck, who doesn't like a free issue?


Reading Christian's take on the diedne now. Review when I am done with the whole thing. Well done, people!

Fairly late this time, but you people write a lot!! :mrgreen:


Review of Sub Rosa #13 by Xavi from the Atlas Forums. As usual take into account that I really admire the writers of all this stuff and that is much easier to criticize than to create original material. So all hail the writers and thanks to them for providing us with amazing material.

A revisionist text that retells the story of Diedne as if it had not existed, and mixing the Founders in the story to make a compelling retelling of the first half of the Order’s history.

This letter is sent as an additional feature, not part of the core Sub Rosa edition. I read it, laughed a lot and at the same time found it extremely attractive as a revisionist text. I made 4 copies, left them casually on the gaming table and waited. At half session, by pizza time, I had one player saying it was nonsense, another saying it was AMAZING and that we should use it as the REAL canon from there onwards and a third that said “who is going for the pizza. I am Flambeau, and I like it toasted”. He had played the character of Ignis Festus in our recent retelling of the Davnalleus story, so it was perfectly fitting. This caused a racus and for the past month the sentence “I am Flambeau!” has developed quite a niche in our table talk. Well done to CJR (I think it was him) on this one. Revisionism well researched and well presented.

This SR presents us with a multiplicity of takes on the Diedne. It is interesting to see what diverse people think about this one. However, after 100 pages of Diedne versions I ended up a little bit fed up with it. The problem is that the authors do not seem to have coordinated between them and seem to have wanted to keep the “they could have been real bad guys, or not, just misunderstood” attitude and the result is that all the versions tend to be rather similar in the end. :confused:

The magics of the Diedne can change a little bit (and some of the iterations are really good), but I would have appreciated stronger takes on the house in one or 2 instances. One where they were children eaters and adorers of demons and another where they were a Divine religion fighting against the pagan non believers of the Latin houses (because Hermetic magic is agnostic at best) would have been cool. Otherwise we end up with the same article repeated 4 or 5 times. All the articles tend to describe diedne as an early house ex miscellanea before house ex miscellanea, with multiple traditions incorporated into the house. I do not buy that myself, but I can see this as an easy and sensible way to justify the large size of the house. I do not buy it because I do not buy the official stance of a lot of Celtic traditions to have survived 500 years of Roman dominance and 800 years of Christianism without much problems, so this is not a problem with the tradition itself.

I understand that this is very difficult to coordinate, and I think that individually each article is really really good :smiley: The problem is when you put them all together. One thing is clear though: the canon material seems to inspire a certain approach to the house, and this is a good conclusion :slight_smile: While the line is supposed not to have an official stance on house Diedne, from the compiled evidence and articles one can assume that there is an official line on the Diedne.

The other pieces are also great, and despite the Diedne focus for this issue of Sub Rosa the editors managed to cram a large number of non-Diedne articles in there! Well done.

David Chart’s explanation on the Line’s take on Diedne was very nice. I already knew it because he had said similar things in the Atlas Forums, but it was nice to have it compiled and in hard text.

The SG’s HANDBOOK (Gerald Wylie)
This article reviews all editions of the game and digs the information on Diedne through the ages. It does a very thorough work at that and I found it very informative. I didn’t know there was so many stuff on the fallen house! A great grounding for the other articles, so you understand where they are coming from.

THE SLUMBERING LEGACY (James Parks & Ben McFarland)
It is difficult to write this without making spoilers, but I will try. This article goes for the idea that the diedne did not go to faerie or similar, but remained among us, even if sleeping. And, like in most other takes on the house, they are coming back and are already partially among us.

This takes a more animist approach to the house than other versions. I like the background. When it comes to rules, I am very biased since my troupe is extremely rules lithe and hand-wavy, so I found the system (like in the other takes) somewhat clunky, with a lot of new virtues and flaws. That is a personal bias, so I am sure others that are better number crunchers than I would appreciate it. It is basically the same reason of why we do not like the Covenants supplement :slight_smile: Not bad, but it does not fit our tastes. The background is really good, though. I like this take on the house, even if it might be slightly too “hippie” for what we would take if we were to reintroduce the Diedne in our saga. We would like them to have a more tremere-like approach to things and go for a more concerted and militarized approach. Yeah, I see the irony of that :mrgreen:

This article explores the advancement packages first presented in Grogs and applies it to the specific case of Redcaps. Mr Hayes does a very good job IMO, and I will be using it if I have to flesh out redcaps or other adventurous mundanes. IMO the advancement packages from Grogs were an amazing idea, so no wonder I appreciate this one. I also noticed a difference in the type of items he grants his sample characters and the ones my troupe appreciates. I find his approach more sensible and suitable to low power sagas than ours, where teleporting or flying redcaps tend to be fairly common.

THE WATCHERS IN DIANA’S SPHERE (Tobias Wheeler & Matt Ryan)
The second take on Diedne. This one takes the form of an edited letter/diary. This form of presenting the information is interesting, and I read it happily. This present a situation where Diedne was having internal problems before it was attacked, so the Roman houses can be said to have set fire to a split and slightly rotten tree already. However, it presents a much less unified order, and more of a civil war situation, with houses siding explicitly or implicitly with Diedne as well as with the 3 core Roman houses of Tremere, Flambeau and Guernicus. This approach is attractive to me much more than a general attitude of 12 vs 1 (minus some side collaborators in Merinita and Bjornaer) as is usually presented in the canon material.

The mechanics are less cumbersome than in the previous article. I prefer these kind of rules changes.

THE DIVISIBLE MEN (Timothy Ferguson)
Another non-Diedne article. I would say that marking this issue as “diedne only” is a huge mistake, since there are quite a lot of other articles around :slight_smile:

This article introduces characters that can remove parts of their body like eyes, ears or hands and send them to run errands. The concept is cool and well; now you know where the hand of the Adams Family came from. They can be really efficient spies and underground operatives in general, and I consider them a fairly cool concept. Timothy Fergusson tends to be an endless source of such weird traditions from all around Europe. I really envy his knowledge of such stuff :slight_smile:

Another take on the Diedne as priests of Magical and Faerie beings. Not surprising given the name of the article. The introduction of rune wizards in the background of the house is very good and one of the things that I remember best about the article 2 weeks after reading it. The funny thing is that the Diedne are presented as equivalent to Tremeres in organization, and this might be one of the main causes of their war: they were vouching for the same position as the organized house in an Order of individualistic magi.

We find our heroes (or not) going to Cad Gadu to investigate an accident. As usual this reads as a real world saga turned story (I suspect it is, and if not kudos to the author). The story is entertaining, and the ritual that Vulcanis performs is awesome. Well done. I always like the Vulcanis entries. The only one I think I did not like much was the one when he was going to the magic realm in a much older Sub Rosa (because I do not like the magic realm much, really). This one looks great.

The final article on the House. Here the Diednes are Celtic priests first and magicians later. The house follows a HMRE approach, with Gifted and Ungifted members of the tradition. The ungifted members of the tradition are not Hermetic magi but are members of the Cult of Belenos, a larger organization that includes all the Diednes and a lot of priests that are not Hermetics. Again, misunderstod secretive and anti-roman. Still, this tradition of “priests first” diednes appeals to me quite a lot, and I think it can work as a good approach to the house. It is the most similar approach to house Ex Miscellanea of all the ones presented in the book. Large, but somewhat unwieldy at the same time. Apparently Mark Baker presented this article to Sub Rosa without knowing that SR#13 was about to be about the Diedne, so the more kudos to him.

Naomi Rivkis tells us past story of the Diedne build up and how and why she wrote the Diedne in Houses of Hermes as she did it. It is an extremely insightful read on the workings and design process of early Ars Magica material, so I would recommend it to everybody.

A city sunken in a lake in the east of the Novgorod tribunal. A nice location to run stories. The problem of reaching such a far away location is fairly well resolved, but I still do not see me using this as it is. It is a great story for other locations, trhough, since similar concepts can be applied to Lyonesse out of the coasts of Cornwall, the Greek islands or the sunken cities in the Transilvanian tribunal.

All in all a nice collection of alternative approaches and writings on the doomed house, but in the end somewhat repetitive. Not a fault of the authors (I think I would have gone through the same path they all took if I had to approach it… and if I had such creative force behind me, that it is something quite questionable) but as I said a more directed approach to have really alternative approaches would have been good. However, the people of Sub Rosa are more compilators than line editors, so their influence on these issues I guess is quite limited. Not a criticism, njust a pointer :slight_smile: I think the authors of Sub Rosa and its editors do a superb job.

If I ever have to use a house diedne IMS I am likely to refer to this issue of Sub Rosa and use bits and parts of all the presented forms. Sleeping diedne with lunar powers granted by magical beings encouraging heathen religions et al.

And as I said previously there is A FREAKIN’ LOT of stuff that is NOT on the diedne, so even if you do not like the tree hugging hippies that deserved to burn you can still extract a lot of material from this issue of Sub Rosa.

Hope you like it. I really liked the ezine. :slight_smile:


Thanks for taking the time to review the issue, Xavi! We really appreciate it!


Yes, thanks for the review (although I think you may have missed one of the Diedne articles - too much Diedne? Never!)

We were very fortunate to have some great contributions from Chad, Lachie, and Timothy to make sure that we brought a bit of balance to the issue, and working with Naomi to get her recollections from back in the day was a real treat.

I promise that there will be less Diedne next issue.

Mark's right! :slight_smile: Christian's take slipped past, though I believe it was more Infernal.

-Ben.'re saying there is a connection? WHO TOLD YOU!??! :wink:

Oh yes. A diedne issue is a dream. Buying this one and the other 3 I have missed since the last time I really read this forum.

Just noticed your messages. Just checked and it is true that one of the take son the diedne slipped under my radar. Will try to review it in the next days.



I am biased of course, but I think issues 10 through 13 have been our most confident run of issues to date and issue 13 is a beast.

So their plans worked! They want to avoid attention after all :wink:

I'll post my review in this thread.

First, let's say that I bought this issue for Diedne material, so I went to those parts first. When I read all of them, eventually I read the rest of the ezine.
My review will use the normal order of the chapters, but all Diedne chapters were reviewed first as I read them, then the others.

1. From the line editor (1 page)
David Chart explains why, from a game developper point of view, one should not give any official statement. In a few words: "let doors open". I guess any reader of Ars Magica 5 material would have guessed.

2. Unearthing the thirteenth house (16 pages)
The real first Diedne article. It is interesting because it's a referential article: all you need to know about official Diedne is written there. This is very few phrases written here and there, but it could help any SG to design his own Diedne mythos since it gathers so many sources of information. The author do not go into conjecture. Only facts in published official material.

3. the slumbering legacy (14 pages)
Unofficial view on the Diedne being not the diabolical druids, nor the allpowerful magi, nor the scheming masters, but only affraid persons who had seen what would come to them, and as they are the "fatalistic" type of person, they prepare a plan to go smoothly under the radar. I'd like to qualify this as a setting where the Diedne used an ark-tool to survive the Flood :wink:. I liked a lot of this idea, since it easily give a feeling of plausibility. Very few mechanical novelties but mysteries for house Diedne (with new virtues). Those virtues trie to enable the background official information in a coherent thing. I liked the flavour of them, it felt plausible.

4. redcap training packages (12 pages)
Now that I finished the Diedne articles, I'm back to this bit of text. It speaks about Redcap and gives them some "package" to choose among when they are trained. Apprently, it refers to Grogs, unfornately, a book I do not own, but I guess those who have it would understand quickly the similarities. Since I do not really play Mercere ungifted people, and because I don't feel the need to give detailed characteristics to NPC (if I need a background NPC to do something, he will either succeed or fail according to plot. So he has plot-characteristics which doesn't matter.) and because I do not feel that an ungifted Mercere may really be a threat to any magus able to check mental minds under cover of the Code, I didn't go in details. But those who do give detailed characteristics to redcap may find those really useful.

5. the watchers in diana's sphere (12 pages)
Unofficial view on the Diedne. In this one, they discovered new paramaters for spells and went hiding... on the moon. It is presented by a roleplay perspective of some Bonisagus who is working for the quaesitors to repay a tribunal debt (for meddling with faeries, something I wouldn't haved taught as an infraction, honestly ^^). After the roleplay introduction, mechanism and stuff follow. The power of Diedne is explained with other mechanism than in 3, and goes for more into the "gift manipulation/creation" side of the magic. It also include some "create temporary bonus in ability" special ability, which may be rulebreaking if poorly used. To be honest, I felt those three powers less "druidic" than those explained in 3.

6. The divisible men (2 pages)
Slavic magic users, they can use a supernatural abilities to reattach their limbs. This simple introduction gives you the feeling : zombies, but not only. This is also an idea to give challenge under unexpected forms. I think I may use this as for a NPC infiltrator, or antagonist. I like the feel of it. Several minor abilities created for those who can only reattach one part of the body. Story seed included, with a link to the Order's history.

7. Diedne the theurge (12 pages)
Unofficiel view (the third!) on the Diedne house. in this one, Diedne and her comrades used spirits for magic powerful effects. it felt thematic, but a bit less "nature oriented" than 3. But the reason why this is the case is explained in the background given : I would say, in a few words, that Diedne were aware that they needed to hide what they truly did, and so they presented themselves as "nature magi". This give a nice explanation as for "why" house Diedne was so big : they had not gifted magi who could use a supernatural ability to communicate with spirits. It's not my favorite idea, but I liked the flavour of it and find the similarities with Mercere and Ex Miscellanea interesting, especially with the Hedge "Gruagachan" part.

8. The journal of vulcan (4 pages)
In the continuity of the other articles "From the journal of Vulcanis argens". In roleplay form, we receive many background and story seeds we could use to design adventures or stories. As always, interesting and filled with details (geographic, historic...).

9. The cult of belenos (10 pages)
Unofficiel view on the Diedne House. Again, with gifted or not gifted members, the house gather around the idea of his religion (polytheist, celtic source). It includes major supernatural abilities which would be used by not gifted members. It includes a special "Diedne Ceremony" ability which may apply to abilies (like ceremony) or spontaneous magic, or even goetic arts. In fine, mysteries of the house are presented.
As for the "evil Diedne" thesis, the author gives 2 explanations which you may follow.
Then, we have an idea of what the current house would look like, with their equivalent "oath of Benelos" (// "oath of Hermes").

10. A chtonic path to corruption (11 page)
Unofficial view on the Diedne house. In this one, the powers of that house came from the Chtonic magic abililties (see RoP:tI) and the taint of the infernal was due, notably, to infernal vis which corrupted the personalities. A bit of secrecy and you have a war. It also gives story seed in which the magi may play the enemies (Diedne hidden inside the order).

11. the house we never had (3 pages)
It will speak about Diedne. But not in this issue. Naomi Rivkis explain how she just invented a background for house Diedne who could have been an official book if she hadn't dropped it. I read this article as a teaser. At the end, the only thing I said was "I want that now!". Her experience with Diedne (made of 6 months playing it back in that time of college) seem to indicate she has build something which feel real and I would love to read more about it. But, this is not for this issue. Perhaps the next. I hope so.
It was the last of the "Diedne" themed articles, so I went back to all the others. But my mind was full of Diedne. I was already thinking which way I preferred most. (And why not all those I liked? how could I integrate them all? I need to think!)

12. the lost city of Kitezh (5 pages)
An article about a city in the Novgorod tribunal. Mainly, this is going to be one city founded in 1205, which story seem to end in 1228 when it's "lost". Exactly the period most of the troupes play in. There are lot of information (geographic in reality, but regiones and vis sources are included).
It feels like a nice piece for anyone who would set a covenant in Novgorod near a city, where things will happen.
Adapting advice are given to move the city anywhere you want it (eg in your favorite tribunal!).

13. Mappa mundi (1 page)
There are more link to Diedne sources on the internet. Good to know! I thnik I will read them as soon as possible.

Addendum: The Gaer Hill letter (3 pages)
Unofficial view on Diedne House. It's spectacular. Three pages of roleplaying text (presented as a letter written by a magus to another), but the author has read every bit of hermetic history and give us a somewhat plausible history : he reconnects different facts, from different stories of the back ground of the order, and it sells itself.
I feeled like I was reading a good Agatha Christie novels: the clues are everywhere in the text. But you can't see them. Then, the detective - I like Poirot who is from Belgium :smiley: - points the clues to you, and you find yourself saying "but, of course!!". That is a sweet taste for the mind.

But be aware, those 3 pages will knock your world upside down. It may be the most difficult background to use, as it changes almost everything about the Order. It creates "the ultimate plot" which is behind all. Some SGs will feel free to add the infernal playing with magi to explain all those events, others will go for a pure political and shameful reasons behind the official story. But it is certainly a themed roleplay which could serve as a campaign basis, with all the major themes already written in the letter. Good job!

Be careful: this addendum is not mentionned in the toc of the subrosa fanzine, and if you print those like I do, you may skip to read and print the addendum. And that would be your lost.

Next time? (back)
I noted "population dynamics of the order" as an article I think I will like, because the order population is something each SG would like to explore. How come there are so few/many magi (depending on the SG) in this or that area? Maybe it will give the answer.

If you like Diedne, you should buy this issue. If you do not like Diedne, you could want to buy it for all the other parts and support the fanzine. But with 108 pages, it was really a complete update with many informations, especially good Diedne sources and analysis.
And, like it was once written...

We will return to haunt you.

Thanks for taking the time to review Sub Rosa! We'll make sure we take care of you when #14 is ready!


Nice review Exarkun, though you missed my contribution! :slight_smile:

Always one Diedne take there is, slips under the radar :wink:


I'm ashamed... I followed the ToC, i'll check that again.

CJs is the bundled Gaer Hill Letter. It's formatted as a separate insert so that SGs could print copies and have them to hand (as I think someone already reported they'd done).