SUB ROSA #3
Under the rose
Alex tells us a few things about the site, and informs us about the overhaul of the Sub Rosa website. I remember that the change was important back then, so it is something to applaud. Especially as the site came under attack by spammers. Alex begs for some reviews on sub rosa if we wouldn’t mind. Well, I am a little bit late to answer to him directly, but I am doing as much as I could. With some significant delays, that is true.
News from the line editor
Mr Chart tells us about his experience at the Grand Tribunal in Cheltenham (envy…) and tells us about the best thing since the potato omelette: the release of Hedge Magic Revised Edition. He also tells us that the next book after that would be Realms of Power: Tricksters to be burned with a Ball of Aby… err, Faeries.
Issue 2 competition Winner
Niall Christie did a review of Sub Rosa #2 back in the day (not like me, that have taken AGES to do it! ). As such he won the prize offered by Alex by then, an Ars Magica supplement of Niall’s choice! Not bad at all
Niall’s review differs from mine in significant points. After reading both, I think his is better. Less a review of the content of each article and more a show of what impressions each chapter had on him. I might steal the idea in the future.
The Circle of the Cabeiri (Mystery Cult; Ben McFarland)
Ben continues to bring us great material. In this case a Mystery Cult centred around Earth Mother and her many names under different cultures, as well as the central place where the Cult operates (a quasi-covenant). I REALLY liked this one when it comes to the general description. I found it quite inspiring.
However, I think that the different powers that the Cult initiates are all fitting one by one… and have no sense as a system. Each ability/virtue taught is totally independent from the rest, so the final result is not a cohesive path, but a bundle of mixed abilities. It did not make much sense to me.
Still, the description is just great. Really atmospheric and brings forward the points he wants to make. The specific abilities can always be edited if you do not like them (I would if I was using this). For me, one of the best mystery cults in print. I found it to be a much more believable cult than some of the official ones.
Societas Flambonis (alternative flambeau background; Mark Faulkner)
If I ask you “tell me of a REAL flambeau fan” you would instantly answer “Mark Faulkner”. At least those that frequent the Atlas Games forums would.
Here Mark brings us the Knights of Seneca, a societas of flambeaus that follow a knightly approach. They somewhat resemble the Milites, but with a more Arthurian approach and a centre of activity around Flambeau’s history in Iberia. The text also introduces flambeau legends and apocryphal stories that I loved It is a cool societas. Somewhat “a little too perfect” for my liking, but cool none the less.
The ignem producing aura is really cool. I prefer the version in the old Iberia tribunal book (not much good intentions there!) but I can admit this more swettened version of loss and grief as the basis for one of the coolest background moments of Ars Magica.
Caravanserai (Covenant location; Ben McFarland)
For this issue Ben McFarland was on a roll, so he also introduced a covenant location. In this case a Caravanserai, one of the caravan stops in the silk route. He describes the caravanserai in terms of virtues and flaws, and explains why each one has been chosen. I think it might have been better to do it the other way around (describe a caravanserai and describe potential boons and hooks as parentheses notes), but it is good and you end up like a good idea of what you could achieve here.
Like he says, the covenant and its location mark the tone of the saga in a lot of sagas. It certainly has been so in the sagas I have been involved in. This is no exception, and you end up with the idea that this can be A LOT of trouble (and the corresponding challenge and fun in that!). As he also says, it is like a far west villa in the middle of the hotbed between the byzantines, the crusaders and the seljuks. Nice! Still, this is an area of the world (Anatolia) where I do not plan to play, so the effort is great, but in my case somewhat wasted. If you want to play here, a caravanserai would be a cool idea for a covenant if you like mundane stories and politics.
The Northwych Yew (Adventure; Mark Lawford)
Another usual suspect of Sub Rosa brings us a new adventure. In this case one that is set in England (like most of his other material) but that has a generic outlook, so it can be placed anywhere in Europe. The story is really cool, and I intend to use it eventually. In my current saga it does not fit because we are playing “the weird way” (in the isle of Mann, Partitio Monaviae et al) but for a less isle-ish covenant it fits right in.
The story is cool and dark. Faerie dark. The 2 fae types that appear are disturbing. Mark Lawford is quite gifted with transferring sensations in his descriptions. The play by the Wicked Players showing the hanging of John had me smiling, with a frozen smile. It is funny and macabre at the same time. The whole story is pitiful and
The rewards of the story can be multiple. You can earn a reputation for wisdom if you do well (and a reputation for moronic brutes if you don’t) in a wide area, but nothing that will be game breaking. The secondary rewards not listed are even better IMO: Paul would make an EXCELLENT redcap, and Mother Mattie is that Gifted lab assistant that you have been looking for since… forever: one that is unlikely to be claimed by another magus. Hinting that to the players might make them sit upright right away and try to solve this adventure with as much success as possible.
As is usual with these adventures published in SR so far, raw power will not carry the day. It is a story that could be solved by minor magic practitioners (even hedge wizards) as much as by Archmagus Conquersallus. It is not what you know, but how you prove it and have the others accept it.
If you have Tales of Mythic Europe, this is an adventure that helps cement an alliance with Lady Martha (or leave her in the background as a neutral agent again if you fail). It is about how you are perceived in an area. And this color will mark your future relationships with the (low level) mundanes in this part of the world. Great mood setting.
Mythic Zoroastrianism (Mystery Cult; Alex White)
Alex White elaborates on his work on the Zoroastrians from Realms of Power: the Divine (I guess it was him that made that part of the book). He makes them into a full fledged hermetic mystery cult for 5th edition.
This is the article that I liked the least in this issue. The work of Alex on the Zoroastrians is just plain amazing, but I could not get much out of it. In this case it is a rules update. The "interesting stuff" about their background info and the like had already been covered in 2 articles in Hermes Poertal and were not repeated here. The result is that the article is too dry for my liking. It is more a list of virtues than anything. It did not set a broader sense for the Zoroastrians or their history, nor did it elaborate on how they would interact with the West. I prefer articles that are more self-contained, even if it means repeating some previous material. Reading a list of V&F with no use in my saga left me quite unimpressed. I am sure that playing in a Zoroastrian saga run by Alex would be amazing, but right now the Zoroastrians do not cut it for me.
This issue of Sub rosa had an Eastern/Islamic/Mediterranean feeling about it. The knights of Seneca and the Reconquista, the Caravanserai, a mystery cult in the Aegean, priests of Persia… If you play further north it might look a little bit “Mediterranean”, but it is a good read none the less, and the Northwych Yew is better than a lot of 20-buck supplements that you find in RPG stores.