Sub Rosa #2 review

In Sub rosa #3 Ben McFarland made a review like this one, but better written IMO, so feel free to disregard what I am saying here :stuck_out_tongue:

News from the line editor (David Chart)
David brings us a review of Art and Acadme. I loved A&A, so I read this eagerly, and it did not disappoint me. Once again, and inside look at the book that brings you some impressions of the “why” of some decisions and approaches. Nice read.

The Grand Tribunal 2007 (Neil Taylor)
A 1 page about the Grand Tribunal event in Cheltenham. After reading the mini-report I can only say that I would have loved to attend.

Mythic Europe: Real Places (Alex Sandison)
A story about a cave in the real world and a story linked to it. The story hook is extremely easy to adapt to other locations if you do not play in England. The story potential of this source is really usable material.

The Path of the Circle (Timothy Fergusson & Mark Shirley)
I have a special dislike of the Criamons. I love what Timothy Fergusson has done with other parts of the canon, but not with the Criamons. As such I could not appreciate much this extra path. For me defining the Enigma has been one of the worst things to happen in Ars Magica 5th edition, but I am sure other people would love it. I much preferred the open-ended Enigma, with every Criamon defining his own search of “the meaning of magic” (“the Enigma” in my vision) and deciding on their own methodology to do so.

However, I liked one thing: this path allows you to play around with creation of creatures in “Frankenstein mode”, and that opens a nice avenue of research and growth for a character. I would play such a magus gladly (in fact, there is exactly this kind of Mage in Magi of Hermes) and this can give you some rough guidelines on how to do it. I would not make you need to be initiated in this mystery nor be a Criamon to do that, but that is me. As I said, I am not neutral about this.

End of the Hohenstaufen Part II (Michael de Verteuil)
After the great introduction of the precious issue, we get to the real end of the saga. AND IT IS GREAT!!! Playing through it would be a really cool thing to do. Since this is a review done MUCH later than the article, I would say that this is a cool story to link with the Augustan Brotherhood from Rival Magic, if it is not done yet in their background. I have not read Rival Magic yet, so I cannot tell from direct experience.

Wheostan the Old (Mark Lawford)
Do you want to get some information and you do not know where to get it? Well, you can go to 2 places in SR#2: Jarod’s Cave or ask Wheostan the Old. The story of Wheostan is both classy in a faerie tale mood, and fitting the setting IMO, so it is a good character. He also happens to be a hermetic magus. If your setting passes over the existence of hermetic wizards, this guy can exist as well. He is the paradigmatic augur from the gipsy fair and a character that can spice up your research. A nice story hook that you can rely to cause trouble and bring stories to your covenant. Remember that your enemies can use Wheostan as a source of information as well to learn things about you….

Beasts of the realm (Ben McFarland)
A bestiary for 3 supernatural creatures: Griffin, Basilisk and Siren. The siren is the “classical” one that we all think about: half woman, half fish, not the “other”, probably more mythically-accurate siren type. All 3 are well defined and with cool rules to support their powers.

Templars Apotropaics (Alex White)
After the purely mundane monk order, we get the first alternative of the Templars by Alex White: an alliance between magi and the Church (or part of the Church) to fight against the forces of the Infernal realm. It is a nice story, but as I mentioned in my previous review of SR#1 I prefer the mundane-only version. I had not read the old Pax Dei nor the Infernal from 3rd edition, so the Apotropaics were only a small reference in ROP:I to me. I consider this to be the weakest of the versions of the templars presented, but usable none the less. It is a good adaptation in case you want to run a hermetic-oriented Templar force. :slight_smile:

Jarod’s Cave (Phil Chase)
Jarod’s cave is a nice place to get information. It has a nice mystical feel. It is purely hermetic, and I am unsure how it is supposed to be achievable with hermetic magic (living ghost mystery?), but it is cool. As with wheostan, it has the potential to be used with a multiplicity of people, but its use is much more limited: 3 questions per magus once per year. As a souce of information, it is cool :slight_smile: I plan on using it in the future.

Hope you find this useful.


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


Issue seven also includes more of Wheostan, but not in the same way as issue two. I won't say any more just yet.

Just wondered what you thought of my "Jinn as Characters" article?

Seems to be the only one you didn't comment on... :frowning:


That is a huge oversight since I did review it. I will search or the document and edit the message ASAP.


Jinn As Characters (Lachlan Hayes)
This article details how to play a Jinn (a natural spirit along the lines of those appearing in Blood and Sand, from 4rth edition, or those controlled by Sahirs in Iberia). You play a weak Jinn, but a weak Jinn is powerful, so it substitutes for your Magus character. The article is well written and makes for interesting creatures, but I am quite against playing non-human characters in my games, so it did not cut it for me as player characters go. However, this article can be used as a bestiary for how to design Jinns if you or your players (in case you are the alpha Storyguide) want to interact with them.

What I did not like, or would not like in case I was playing a Jinn: Might level imbalance.

First, Might Score. You get might 1 at 20 years of age, might 2 at 40, might 3 at 60….). That sounds awfully low to me. That means that you are (more or less) forced to take Jinni Might at least 2 or 3 times at character creation (more likely 5 times), reducing your level of customization a lot. Quite a few of the powers (specially the cool one: Elemental Form Control) require the expenditure of Might in huge amounts, so you’d be better having more might.

Also, you are not limited in age at character creation. You start getting old at 150, so I would see not much problems generating a 120 year old Jinn (at might 6 at that age, that is) with the corresponding number of XP to invest in abilities and the like. Want a character with single weapon at level 30? Here you go :slight_smile:

All this ends up in the sample character. I think that Sigurd, my current shield grog (veteran, 32 years old, half taltós) can beat him down. I am quite unimpressed by him. For a companion he is OK, but the power level is not the equivalent of a Magus character by a far stretch. the character would need to be minmaxed a lot more to put him on that player character category. Here is an example: taking the 10 remaining virtue points in control element (once or twice), Strong Jinni heritage 3 more times times and Jinni Might 6 times. That would make him Might 13 (at age 20) or 18 (at age 120) with 120 spell levels and the ability to improvise further effects. You can reduce the "fixed" spells and increase the number of might if you want to make better use of the Control Element power. That would put him in the same category as a magus when it comes to power level. If he was 120, the accumulated XP would make him powerful, but at age 20 he would still be quite weak.

So, conceptually they are cool if you fancy non-human player characters, but the power level puts them on the weak side of mythic companions unless you minmax them quite heavily. More along the lines of regular companions than a true substitute for a magus. Increasing the range of Might to 1 Might point per 5-10 years of age would solve that somewhat, but right now they are weak in my opinion. My players interact with younger and more powerful NPCs in most supernatural adventures.

The concept is cool, but the realization has so many rules that the end result is somewhat weaker. Incidentally that also happens with the realms of Power Faerie and Magic books, where the “playable” characters tend to be unbalanced compared to their human equivalents.


PD: As usual, this came out much stronger as a criticism than I intended. I think it is a good article, just that it is not my favorite flavor. As said repeatedly, any fool can slam down something made by others, but not everybody can write that down in the first place.

I think any criticism you had was succinctly placed in the title. :stuck_out_tongue:

If your shield grogs are half taltós , beating down a weak Jinn would be routine no doubt.
What arcane levels of power the magi must have in this context. :astonished:
Unless you are using a definition of taltós not obvious to this aussie. :confused:

LOL :laughing: :laughing: Incredible what you subconscious can do :stuck_out_tongue:

I didn't understand the "different half taltos definition" in your last comment, though. We have 2 half taltos in the covenant. My shield grog is one of them. And I say "my" when I should be saying "I" since it is me that plays Sigurd most of the time :slight_smile: The other half taltos is a shepperd that regularly beats down ghostly wolves with his sling. Nobody has noticed that fact so far, though. That fact that the wolves he beats are trying to approach him to recruit him for the night battles might explain why the crops have been failing, lately. But that is another story.

Power level, not very high, really. We have a 28 year old magus, a 40 year old, a 43 year old and a 75 year old magus in our covenant. The most powerful one is Severin (well, Presteris ex Flambeau, our aquam elementalist is more powerful in terms of sheer destructive power, though), and his Arts have not evolved much since what you read in TOME; he has been putting XP into abilities more than arts or spells. The presented character in the article is not on the same league as any of the magi in the covenant, even the ones that evolved from gauntlet.


As a designer this is useful feedback (sure it's nice when playtesters say "this is great etc etc" but I learn more when they have constructive criticism or at least criticism with their viewpoint explained as opposed to "we didn't like this") - this leads to improving the design and ultimately a better product / article or whatever. So I welcome this kind of review / feedback, particularly as you say up front you don't like non-human characters - your comments are therefore useful to help me understand what it is that I could perhaps have done to appeal to a wider audience.

One of the issues with writing for Sub Rosa is not getting a lot of feedback (or playtest comment ie how it works in the wild). These reviews really help.

Any other feedback would be welcome. I'm sure most of the other contributors feel the same.

I think Timothy even said on his blog that he enjoys responding to playtesting more than writing the first draft!

Well... yes. I entirely agree actually. This part is quite naff, now that I look at it. :slight_smile:

This was written in 2nd half of 2007 and conceived even earlier. I used Blood of Heroes Mythic Companions and the Nephilim / Devil Children as a starting point. It was the first "mechanics" article I ever attempted as an exercise in developing Mythic Companions as a broader concept within the line and trying to bring back some of the Blood & Sand material into ArM5. I would do this very differently now, particularly now that RoP:M and RoP:F have been released. In fact, the core mechanics of this piece have been superceded by mechanics from these supplements.

I think there' still some salvageable ideas though. Who knows, they may turn up again somewhere... :wink:

The article was mainly an attempt to rationalise and explain the concept of "jinn" as a disparate class of related magical beings that are spread across 3 of the 4 Supernatural Realms and had been mentioned in several sourcebooks, something that presented some unusual challenges within the mechanics of Ars Magica. I think I succeeded at this and it helped me think a lot about how the Realms in Ars Magica work and what doesn't really work about them. It also raised the issue of how do you have immortal characters not become experts at every Ability, which worried me so I underpowered the jinn considerably. Solutions to this are presented in RoP:M and RoP:F which work a lot better.

Fair call. Najib isn't particularly good at anything, but then he's a young janni (one of the weakest of the jinn tribes). He is weak for a Mythic Companion but then the whole role of Mythic Companions was a bit murky back then and people were a bit edgy about having magus challenging hedgies etc. Rival Magic has thankfully changed that. :slight_smile:

I don't play particularly powerful characters usually so I didn't bother to minmax him - most players are very good at that themselves, whereas a themed character does more to demonstrate the concept IMO. A "weak" character can be a poor advertisement for a concept though I suppose. I probably should have presented another more combat oriented character to contrast - I completely wasted the opportunity to showcase the Elemental Control Virtue which I was quite proud of (although it's since been replaced by a different mechanic in RoP:M and RoP:F).

No dramas champ. As I said the criticism is what improves the piece. If anything I thought you pulled a few punches.
(Compared to some playtest comments, this was adulatory!)

Maybe I'll shoot you my next draft for SubRosa to get a good griddling?