I know that The Church isn't actually out yet but I was wondering about how it will relate to RoP: Divine (especially since the later appear to be completely unavailable). I can see, based on the the table of contents, that The Church focuses on the institution of the western church rather then on angels, divine creatures and divine magic... which is fine by me. However, I have a nagging concern of seeing a lot of references to RoP: Divine... which won't be much use since I can't buy it.
So, does anyone know (and can answer without violated their NDA), will The Church function as a stand alone sourcebook without annoying me with a lot of "see page (XX) in Realms of Power: Divine"?
You should be able to use The Church without referencing RoP:D. As you note, the focus is very much on the institution rather than Divine creatures. RoP:D would be useful for a few bits, but so would RoP:I, and C&G, and A&A. None of them are necessary; they just add depth.
Realms of Power: The Divine Revised Edition -- with a completely new Judaism chapter and everything else unchanged -- is on the way, but doesn't have an ETA yet.
The book stands alone dealing with VERY different things, though ROP: The Divine's reprint will make it even more useful. Existing owners of ROP: The Divine will find lots of new ways to use the material within that book, which hopefully will make it even more useful in your sagas. The Church and ROP: The Divine are not related; The Divine dealt with the theological side, the Church deals with the human institution, and has loads of new material for your games.
I think I'm allowed to say this as Atlas are releasing to distributors on Wednesday and foreign orders have already shipped according to the latest Atlas Games blog?
I'm also going to note that I also worked on TMRE, Lion and the Lily, Lords of Men, Rival Magic, and The Sundered Eagle all I think great books, though that is down to the other authors chapters not my parts; but to date The Church is the book I think will be most useful for my saga, and the one i am most excited about, because there is so much MYTHIC goodness in there! I don't think it's what people expect. I can't give details -NDA - but do buy this one!
Woo hoo! Now if only either Amazon or Warehouse23 would get it in stock I could order it. (Before you say it, my FLGS doesn't carry Ars Magica products and every time he's tried to special order them for me, his distributers have failed to come through.)
It has finally arrived, and I have started browsing through the book. Looks good so far. Unfortunately I won't be able to say much more before Sunday, because I will have to prepare for GMing a marathon session with my offline-RPG-round for tomorrow. But anyway, the fact that I got the book should mean that the authors may now be able to give some information. So, get started.
The Congregation - material on ordinary lay believers religiosity, including mystics, pilgrimages and new rules for devotion to a Saint that increase the chance of a saint beuing successfully invoked if you spend time on the cultus of that saint. (My bit)
Doctrine & Diocese - deals with how the medieval Church in the West is organised; loads of useful stuff on how to get ordained, what roles exist in the church, and especially how to Petition the Church for various things.
The Rule - explains briefly the way monks and nuns lived (Sheila and me wrote this)
Women - excellent little chapter on women in Medieval Church.
The Corrupt - three major monastic orders of Mythic Europe explored, with suggestions for sagas in which one has been corrupted by the infernal; new demons and story ideas. (er, me again).
The Knights Templar - a great historical overview with new Virtues for Templar characters.
The Franciscans - this chapter deals with preachers and friars, and especially the Franciscans
I'm fairly certain it will be compelling, only because I haven't found any content for this line that hasn't been compelling to me so far. My main concern is whether I will be able to justify to myself buying the book for a second time.
A long weekend has passed, and I have finished my first reading of TC and have started to go through the material a second time, this time taking more care of the details. Anyway, I think I have read enough for a slightly more detailed summary of the content of the first three chapters at least; the rest will follow:
The introductory chapter doesn't give us much that wasn't expected. It mainly outlines the reasoning behind this book, reminds us to define the relations between the order and the church for our sagas and includes the standard disclaimer for those people whose religious feelings might be offset by a RPG-book dealing with their religion.
Chapter Two, The Congregation, is short but rule-heavy. It starts with an overview on the importance of organized religion in most communities' lives and then progresses to various forms of common signs of piety and their mechanical effects: Fasting for a season or more weakens characters but helps if they want to petition a saint for a miracle; having a pious character trait (and living up to it) has benefits, because you might get a slightly better connection to some of the saints, so that they might be more likely to intercede in your behalf – but to reap this benefit you probably should spend time and/or ressources to prove your devotion and get an intimate understanding; pilgrimages are not only good for the soul, but they also provide character-based stories and work as a kind of quest for religious initiations in new virtues; even laymen (and -women) can join mystic traditions, and by experiencing divine warping (in one form or another) they gain new powers while they slowly loose their grip on the mundane world.
Chapter Three, The Diocese, deals with the structure of the church, especially with the clergy all the way from the pope at the top down to the doorkeeper. This includes a list of virtues and flaws for such characters (mostly already published elsewhere), some new seasonal activites (Worship, Care of Souls, Good Works), detailed texts about the role played by the different levels of the (secular) clergy, rules how to join the clergy or rise in it's ranks in game, further rules to provide a church with stats (comparable to those for a covenant), rule-mechanics how to petition the church (for a range of things from annulling a marriage up to start a major church reform or a crusade) and information about canon law and the structure of a local parish.
Up to this point everything seems pretty compatible with the stuff previously published (anything else would have been a surprise), but even though some rules are repeated, there is still enough new stuff to make this book worth the investment of time and money.
I hope this helps with your decision, I'll summarize further chapters, when I have time again.
I'm a closing in on the end of chapter 5 myself. I love the way that pilgrimages are used. I'm surprised to see how often the Divine is referenced (especially in chapter 2) this pleases me, but there are certainly a few things that folks who don't have the Methods and Powers rules from the divine won't be able to use. Wisely the information on faith points and true faith and some relevant discussions about virtues are included or summarized so I think (on first read through) that there won't be anything that isn't usable without RoP:Divine just stuff that doesn't have as broad of a use.
As it often does my mind strays to game mechanics. This does give many more options regarding the RoP: Divine method and power systems. I wonder what sort of a purity using holy power user one could put together over the course of two decades of play at this point.
In the first five chapters there are 24 text boxes of story seeds. The book is begging me to put its material in my game at every page. a big thank yo to the authors for their efforts in this regard. (Although there are some story seeds in chapter five that come across as difficult to relate to a standard game of magi.)
Now this is what I very much did not want to hear. It displeases me greatly.
I know, RoP: Divine is being revised and will be re-released at some point in the as yet undefined future. That was great news, but the undefined future is a long way off. So what is the point of referencing rules that some of us can not have... not do not have, but can not have.