OK, here's my review for Sub Rosa #14:
Overall, this was another solid issue, maybe not so rounded as #13 (just because it is not a monographic as such), but with a distinctly “Hibernian” feel. As usual the artwork is functional, with some color illustrations in some sections. And this issue we also have a few computer graphics that come very handy in their sections!
Going to the point:
Under the Rose: A review of year 2013 for Ars Magica… And what a year it was! Seeing it all together we had four new books (which is a lot), a podcast, the vanilla covenant project and of course, the Diedne special in Sub Rosa, among others. Not bad. Not bad at all.
From the Line Editor: David Chart discusses the last book, Transforming Mythic Europe, which inevitably leads to the “Why haven’t Hermetic magi done this before?” issue. Mr Chart gives some reasons for this, which I personally think are rather plausible: making these changes in the past would have required a concerted effort that was not so easy to meet with the Order being relatively small and thinly spread. Most importantly, David states that from the canonical start of sagas in 1220, the path is free for anyone to follow, and thus indeed “transforming Europe” is as good a goal as any for a PC covenant… But also, one that is not so easy to accomplish.
The Storyguide’s Handbook - The Path Less Traveled: Gerald Wylie explains how using mind-mapping techniques can be (strongly) beneficial for your stories/sagas. Developing a saga or story arc visually can help a storyguide notice the weak points in his plots and easily check if the general flow of the game is the right one. Also, some additional advice is given depending on the kind of game you want to run. I recently read GM-help books such as Never Unprepared or Odyssey, so I found this article really interesting for all kind of storyguides. As a personal suggestion related to this, I think any SG should keep an eye on the Realm Works software, soon to be released. It will make your life (or your saga management) easier.
Verditius Longevity Devices: Mark Lawford presents two device-based Verditius mysteries as alternatives to longevity rituals. The first uses a “phylactery”, an enchanted device that adds a bonus to aging rolls based on the crafting skill of the magus. The second one, the Mystery of Credne, is native to Hibernia, and could be forgotten as of today. It is based on replacing body parts to get a bonus to aging rolls. This is an extremely interesting option not only to make, err… cyborg wizards... but also to develop some thematic stories. In fact, I think this mystery could easily be used as a really interesting story (or even saga) seed for a game set in Hibernia… The piece also includes a new sheet where you can record all the airgetlámha, or physical changes your character has undergone. (By the way, I have to ask: what’s with all this body-mangling articles in SR lately? First we had the Divisible Men and now this!).
Demography of the Order of Hermes: The title is self-explaining. A lengthy analysis of the demographic growth of the Order of Hermes across time, since its creation to 1220, and then into the future. The article takes into account the influence of Order-wide events (including the Schism War, among others) in this demographic growth. It also states some details and conditions that could influence the growth of the Order in the future, which I think can be helpful in a long saga. I found this article interesting, but also very heavy on demographic terms and explanations. This is stated in advance by the author, Mark Shirley, so don’t take this as a criticism...
From the Journal of Vulcanis Argens: In this installment, our Verditius ponders on how to create an “intelligent” magical chess board, is initiated in a Verditius mystery and learns some new craft skills to be better prepared for the future. Ah, the life of a Verditius is a busy one! I found this installment really amusing and atmospheric.
An Eternal Love: This is a short adventure with an old-edition flavor (the PCs are from Bentalone and the story is set in Provence) that could be used very easily in a convention or as an introductory adventure for beginners. The adventure’s main theme is revenge, and it has a bit of everything: murder, romance, treachery, a seedy hedgie, some crazy German mercenaries… The adventure includes all the necessary PCs stats, so you won’t need much prep even if you want to use it with a group of players new to AM. It looks like it could be run in just one session.
Mythic Bloodlines: More than the Founders. Well, here we have a little gem by Ben McFarland. This is a new section with new suggestions for mythic-blooded characters. This first installment, focused on Novgorod and Scandinavia, is chock-full of great ideas based on mythic characters from these areas, including suggestions for Foci, Powers and personalities. Have you ever wanted to play a character that is a descendant of Baba Yaga? Now it’s your chance. I can’t wait to read more of this section in the future.
Companion Piece: The Three Good Men of Bréifne: I have always loved SR’s companion pieces, and this is no exception. Herein is presented a trio of roguish Irish characters: a clothier, a butcher and a weaver… only that they are more than that. These three guys can be used in any kind of ways in a saga set in Hibernia: as occasional NPC allies, as companions for all kind of purposes (exploration, combat, even some magic…). They have a variety of skills that can prove very useful for any covenant. Also, the Metacreator sheets for these characters are included in the SR 14 package, which is always a bonus, so… what else can you ask for?
The First Lineage - The Inventors: Mark Baker presents a full lineage of Bonisagus magi, descending from one of Bonisagus’ own (and less known) apprentices. This is a lineage of inventors, and you can find all kind of researchers here, from the ruthless maga who makes weird experiments with villagers and turns them into snakes to the casual, absent-minded scholar who can blow his own covenant with some of his projects. (And then, of course, we have Seneca…). Each magus has a brief description including goals, personality and even a story seed to introduce him in your saga. Even though the magi as a “lineage” seemed a bit too wacky to me, I found this a good source for possible breakthrough ideas if you ever need them.
Mappa Mundi: Resources on the web for people interested in running sagas in the Hibernian Tribunal. Some interesting books are mentioned there!
As I said, this was another solid issue. You guys are doing a great work. As a final note, I’d like to make a suggestion regarding the navigation of the magazine. Have you considered including bookmarks for each section in the PDF file? I’m aware that you can navigate the file from the Contents page, but I think that having the sections bookmarked, allowing you to go from any section to any other section, would make navigation even easier…