Fairly late this time, but you people write a lot!! :mrgreen:
SUB ROSA #13 REVIEW
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.
LETTER OF GAER HILL
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.
SUB ROSA #13 PROPER
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.
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 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 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.
LINE EDITORS NOTES (David Chart)
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 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:
REDCAP TRAINING PACKAGES (Lachie Hayes)
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
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
DIEDNE THE THEURGE (Erik Dahl)
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.
FROM THE JOURNAL OF VULCANIS ARGENS: TRIP TO CAD GADU
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 CULT OF BELENOS (Mark Baker)
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.
THE HOUSE WE NEVER HAD (Naomi Rivkis)
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.
THE LOST CITY OF KITEZH (Chad Bowser)
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 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.