Suggestion and Opinions on Covenant

I'm designing a covenant for an upcoming saga (my players prefer that I build the covenants, especially since it's supposed to be established before they arrive) and would like some input and suggestions for how to improve upon it. I'm trying to go for a strong community-based theme with high-fantasy and Faerie elements, with lots of potential for fantastic (as in high-fantasy; the quality depends on my skill) stories. Important details include the heavily disjointed nature of the Order in my games (meaning many Code violations go unpunished as long as the magi aren't too stupid), the no-research nature of the mundane setting, and the fact that my players are extremely into the feel of heroic fantasy and prefer an abundance of stories with the heroic fantasy layout, even if their current characters are more evil than heroic.

To provide some color, I put the covenant high up in the trees in a particularly powerful Faerie woodland (Aura 5 throughout most of it, as high as 8 in certain places) next to an extremely major mundane road with lots of traffic from merchants and travelling nobles.

The covenant is defended by two things: the forest itself, which is home to trolls and such, and which is constantly layered with a mystical fog that disorients and induces paranoia in those who aren't used to it, as well as naturally snuffing out fire; and a group of sentient, mobile, and wise Faerie trees (with faces ^_^) around the covenant which use their illusions and hypnotic powers, whipping branches, and projectiles of paralyzing sap to defend the covenant in exchange for regular conversation/counsel with (and occasional direct assistance from) the covenfolk and magi, whose human viewpoints on issues are both fascinating and useful to the trees.

These defensive arrangements are highly convenient for the magi, as they ward away enemies that would normally be difficult for the magi to deal with themselves due to troublesome consequences. Such enemies would otherwise be quite common, as the covenant's two main sources of income are banditry and illegally collecting tolls on the nearby mundane road. The covenant utilizes magically-supplemented criminals for both collecting on these sources of income and as soldiers, and while this gives the covenant a rather fearsome and negative reputation among mundanes, it also pays off quite handsomely (about 500 pounds annually, to be specific).

The covenant itself is akin to a city built high up in the trees, with some major differences.

First, there's much more separation, comfort, and sanitation. People's living quarters, which are carved directly into the giant trees themselves, are numerous, and are quite spacious, possibly having multiple floors, allowing for groups of one or two families to live quite comfortably in each, contrasting the crampedness of city living and the discomfort of peasant living. The tree city is also sustained by a number of exceptional inventions, formed through a mixture of fabulous craftmanship, Faerie glamour, and Hermetic magic. The two most important of these inventions are known as the smokeless chimneys and the mobile irrigators, which both exceptionally improve the comfort and living conditions of the covenfolk. The smokeless chimneys were invented because the flammable nature of trees, combined with the snuffing effects of the forest's fog, made using fire as a heat source implausible. The so-called smokeless chimneys are thin metal columns which reach from underground up to the treetops, where they branch out into the tree homes themselves. These pull heat from deep underground, each branch pulling one of five amounts of heat based on the covenfolk's needs for any particular branch, allowing them to regulate house temperature, cook, and boil water, as well as having Hermetic enchantments allowing them to emit light on command. (Note that, in terms of Hermetic mechanics, the heat effect is a number of different heat-producing effects, not actually pulling heat from underground; that's fluff.) The mobile irrigators are basically another word for magical pumps, bringing water from nearby channels up to the covenant and pumping liquid waste back down, giving the covenfolk running water, and making the overall sewage technology of the covenant highly advanced (not to the degree of having, like, true toilets or anything especially modern, but still).

Covenfolk travel throughout the covenant via bridges and platforms. The great branches and vines of the giant tree are tied together and made rigid with stone plates, forming bridges from each home to platforms. Platforms are large square or rectangular structures where many bridges meet. The weight burden on these areas is more precarious than on the bridges, due to being constructed of woven material (rather than connected directly to the great trees) and their function requiring them to bear many peoples' weight at once. The magi tried to mitigate this problem by centering the platforms on trees whose tops were cut off, thus giving the wider and weaker platforms a solid midsection, and by hanging nets around just below the platforms attached to the sturdier bridges to catch those who break through the outer edges and fall. Nonetheless, there are still occasional fatalities while people are hustling onto and off of the platforms.

Not only do the platforms connect to the homes of the covenfolk, they also connect to each other, and to the workshops and business centers outside the residential area; this is how the covenfolk move about the covenant. Since the bandits and toll-collectors bring home the money, non-food supplies, and materials, and the traders bring home food, nobody at the covenant itself has to worry about producing food or gathering raw materials, so, much as in towns, nearly all the covenfolk are either laborers or specialists. Due to having access to high-quality materials, Faerie influence, and exceptional workforce cohesion, the covenant produces very high-quality equipment, often harboring supernatural abilities that are of benefit to either the criminals, or to the magi enchanting the criminals' best equipment. The covenfolk work in workshops that are either built onto their own offshoot platforms, or into trees in much the same way as the covenfolk homes. The magi have similarly, though more expensively and structurally soundly, built laboratories, which are segregated from the rest of the covenant to take advantage of a patch of much stronger aura.

The covenfolk have a bond to one another that is unusually strong given the large number of them. They pretty much all recognize each other, and they're all loyal to the covenant against outsiders. Even the criminals, who are powerful and have an inborn knack for brutality, treat the other members of the covenant like family, and are loyal enough to the magi to resist bribes most of the time.

The covenfolk are pagans, fearing the wrath of “Chronos” (more on him later) and worshipping the Sky Beasts. These are powerful winged unicorns, residing on the ground below the covenant as well as often flying above it, and they assist the covenant by way of prophecy, healing, and supernatural blessing in exchange for worship, tribute, and the gift of three pure virgin girls every ten years; these girls can be babies, and one of the three is always returned in five years with the Gift awakened in them, while the other two are either killed or become high priestesses for the Sky Beasts depending on how accurate the covenfolks’ assessment of their purity was.

Though the covenant is well-protected from outsiders within their forest, they must still often contend with supernatural troublemakers coming from the forest itself. The two main concerns are the Moglins and the Feathered Bog Trolls.

The Moglins are baby-sized, bipedal gerbils with somewhat football-shaped heads and large ears. The Moglins, though adorable and harmless most of the time, alarm the magi greatly due to what appears to be an immunity to both the Aegis of the Hearth and the Parma Magica. This is rarely a big concern, as the Moglins normally only have beneficial Powers like healing and minor spirit summoning, and while they are something of a nuisance due to how overly friendly they are, they don’t tend to cause any real harm... But every five years, on the day of the girls being given to the Sky Beasts, the Moglins wail in grief at the loss of their friends, and transform into stronger and more devilish forms. Some turn into hulking, destructive beasts, while others turn into tiny necromancers or mighty conjurers. They chant the names of all those who have died or disappeared in the past five years, ending with the girls who were taken by the Sky Beasts, and then enter into a rampage, with the destruction almost always spreading into the covenant. Despite how dangerous they are like this, the magi don’t ever kill the Moglins, because both the Sky Beasts and the wise trees have made it clear that if any of the Moglins are intentionally harmed with magic, they will revoke their aid to the covenant. At the end of one night of rampage, they turn back to normal, instantly becoming their usual overly friendly and cheerful selves.

The Feathered Bog Trolls are predatory trolls who hunt in packs in the forest. Their appearance is akin to giant men with feathered bodies, and though this does not allow them to fly, it does them more aerodynamic, which is important, as they tend to travel by jumping from tree to tree unless they’re hunting. They have horridly poisonous claws and fangs, making it incredibly dangerous to engage them in physical combat, but their most dangerous feature is their incredible sense of smell. The trolls are legendary even outside the forest for their incredible tracking abilities, being able to track invisible and inaudible enemies/prey to their exact location from over twenty paces away; even the most skilled rangers who know the best scent-covering techniques would be extremely unlikely to evade these trolls for any length of time. They often raid the covenant, either by poisoning some of the wise trees and slipping past them, or by leaping atop them if they’re feeling especially daring, though this often results in many trolls being thrown off and heavily injured or killed, so they don’t employ this tactic often. The covenfolk, knowing the trolls will usually attack by climbing up from below, keep a cauldron of oil on constant boil in or above their homes (depending on the quantity they’re willing to devote to this purpose; if they can’t quickly carry it, it’ll be outside) to dump onto any advancing trolls; not only does this injure them, but it tends to cause their feathers to stick, resulting in some of the trolls throwing themselves to the ground accidentally while trying to jump to other parts of the covenant. These trolls can’t rapidly heal themselves in combat, but they do recover much faster than humans, which would normally be the death of the covenant, if not for the healing they receive from the magi, Moglins, and Sky Beasts.

There is another monster present at the covenant, though few know much about it. The true purpose of the covenant being located in such a place is so that there are magi there to monitor the Chronos Portal. It’s referred to as a portal, but it’s not a single opening; rather, the highest Auras in the covenant, where the magi have their labs, are cracks, allowing the energy and will of “Chronos” to seep through. Though this has mostly only positive effects on labwork, it also means that any lab accidents caused by experimentation or the like are all the more dangerous, as they could cause the portal to crack open more. To the surprise of the magi, “Chronos” appears to be a creature of Magic rather than Faerie, though they can figure out very little else about it. The legends, however, pointing to the location, refer to the creature “Chronos” as a being who angered the similarly-named Greek titan by taking his name. According to said legends, when they battled, “Chronos” was able to overpower all the titans simultaneously, and stole most of their power; this, these legends preach, is the reason the otherwise superior titans were able to be overwhelmed by the Greek gods. Few take these legends seriously, but the covenfolk (and, usually, the magi) hold these legends practically as scripture, fearing the day Chronos figures out how to weaken whatever is sealing him.

Most of the older magi at the covenant have just allowed the PC magi to succeed them as the covenant’s guardians, as most of them have either transformed themselves into Faeries in order to join the Sky Beasts as godlings (yes, that’s what they’re referred to as) or left the immediate covenant to pursue other interests within or beyond the forest. Only one magus, of House Criamon, remains, seeking to learn what was used to seal Chronos so that he may begin updating it to Hermetic magic, so that if Chronos ever escapes in the future, the magi of the covenant can reseal him.

That’s about everything I’ve got so far. What would be some recommendations on how to make the covenant more interesting or cohesive? Do you find it interesting as-is? I would normally Faerie-fy it more, but my players have trouble pushing their imaginations very far in regards to fantasy (they’re those types of people who, when questioned about what supernatural creature to put in a given situation, would answer “dragon” 90% of the time… And something else well-known the other 10% :stuck_out_tongue: ) and I don’t want to alienate them. So yeah… All advice appreciated!

The Covenant is in a Faerie aura instead of a Magical one, then?


Remember the inherent danger for those who are not merinita then. Faerie auras you add botch die equal to the aura to any magic based botches. Magic auras you don't because the magi are naturally aligned to them (Hence why merinita don't get those botch die in a faerie aura either)

I've always found this troubling for me. Faeries represent the possibility of lots of stories, yet magi don't want to live here (poor bonuses, warping). Wait, no, that makes, sense, magi want to be left alone, of course they don't settle in Faerie auras unless they absolutely must!

It's mentioned that the magi have their labs in a patch of high aura, and since it starts at 5 and goes to 8, it stands to reason it's at least 6. Which also causes beings not aligned with Faerie to acquire warping (Ars Magica 5th Edition, pages 167-168).

Given the concepts I've been handed by my players, that shouldn't be an issue. Part of the reason I even decided a Faerie aura was feasible is because of the five of them, three wanted to try Merinita magi and one of the others wanted to be a Verditius with Faerie Blood (or the Strong version). I can probably convince the last one to take Faerie Second Sight or something to deal with the Warping. :stuck_out_tongue: Though I recognize the botch dice problem for non-Merinita.

Dark Magic can also help you get past those botch dice.

If research has been done or is being done, that could help. For example, there is stuff in both HoH:TL (Bonisagus section) and LoH about dealing with other auras.

Also, to counter the decrease in lab Safety (I think this is where those botch dice show up.) you can increase the Safety in other ways.

Alternatively, have the high aura patches be magic, but the rest of the place is in a faerie aura. Meaning their labs (where magi will live) and the library (ditto) are magic and thus safe for all magi, while the rest of the place has fae, including potentially fae covenfolk.

Actually, that would make total sense, since the whole reason those aura patches are stronger is supposed to be because "Chronos"'s power is seeping through. Thanks for the idea!

Not my idea originally. My SG uses the same basic idea for our saga. We've got a faerie aura surrounding a magic aura which is the forced conversion of the aura generated by a powerful (think faerie god) might being.

Of course, this thing is contained within the lab of the guy with the reckless personality, so I worked out his odds of blowing us all up as about 0.07%. During advancement...