The Covenant of the Wandering Path

This is the covenant idea for my campaign that caused me to post the "regio within regio" thread. I'll post the fluff of this idea here, so as to keep that seperate from the rules advice. When I finish typing it up, I'll also put up the doc with the covenant's boons and hooks.

Herein, I'll refer to my saga as the Covenant of the Wandering Path (CWP), to distinguish it from the published Semita Errabunda, but of course in my actual saga, we use the latin.

The link below should lead to a google doc viewable by anoyone with the link:

My players asked for high fantasy and an isolated covenant with relatively little contact with clergy, nobles, and hermetic politics. I have read on the forums about how this can be a problem, so I tried to deliver on their expectations while protecting them from the dangers of too much isolation.

I also tried to throw in literally years, both in game and real time, of campaign posibilities that could be developed as the players become more familiar with the rules and setting. Some of these story seeds may become the central feature of the campaign, or at least one of the highlights. Others may be less central, coming up occasionally or being used once. Some may never even come into play, but can be used as background activities for various npcs. Some may simply never come into existence in the saga, but they are present if the pc's want to explore them. Many could "sit dormant" until the pc's are ready, others are "ticking time bombs" until adressed.

First off, I've situated things to facilitate the projects from HP:

  • the burning city, in the volcanic caldera on lvl 7
  • the great tower, anywhere within the regiones, depending on purpose
  • the hermetic shipyard, at the L5 covenant or elsewhere
  • the living corpse, using things that can be gathered on level 1
  • the menagerie of magical beasts, using magical creatures that can be gathered on the various levels of the regio
  • the intangible assasin could of course be pursued anywhere, but I tried to provide appropriate vis sources

In addition, starting with the mundane realm and working up through the levels:

  • the broken covenant of calebais lies within CWP's mundane area of authority
  • the area around the regio entrance is currently autocephalous/unsettled, the nearest human settlements are at least 20 miles away, but that could change as the population expands in Gascony and the Pyranees in the 1200's. What would/could the magi do if a local lord founded a town at the bend in the river where the regio entrance lies?
  • Will the magi respond in any way to the ongoing crusade, either for or against either side?
  • If the campaign lasts into the 1300's, and the black plague comes, will the covenant retreat into their regio or assist mundane folk? Will the magi be blamed?

Level 1:

  • There is story potential if anyone (covenant or other) attempts to use the infernal vis on L1. Infernalists may be attracted to L1 for any number of other reasons. Less learned clergy in particular might be alarmed by wizards who live behind an infernal realm.
  • Anyone in a boat could stumble into L1 by accident and possibly make their way into the other levels.

Level 3:

  • The roman ruins in the fairie forest on L3a could be explored further, possibly yielding a new vis source.
  • The hunt for the golden rabbit vs the fey could make for a good grog-centered session.
  • The fairie court on L3a might invite noble companions to a tournament.
  • The mystery of the recent divine transformation of L3b could be explored further, and the hermit could vbecome a companion level PC.
  • If the covenant's rightful authority was ever again called into question, such as at tribunal, the king of the bees might stop delivering rego vis.

Visitors to Level 5:
Despite the isolated locale of the covenant on L5, it recieves a relatively steady stream of invited and uninvited guests for a number of reasons, so it is not as isolated as it may seem:

  • For one, with the path into the covenant having been firmly documented during a past regional tribunal, any number of local and foreign magi, from hermetic, rival, or hedge traditions, as well as academic scholars and clergy, may turn up to explore this unique locale, pursuing any of these (or other) story seeds.
  • There is a group of itinerants, covenfolk who leave the regio to procure goods needed by the magi. They usually travel to Bayonne, 40 miles downriver, or to Lourdes, 30 miles overland.
  • These itinerants also seek out goods that the magi believe will fetch a good price on the far side of the regio boundary on L7, wherever it may currently be connected to. This mysterious trade in exotic goods serves as an indescrete resources hook.
  • The covenant may have aquitted itself at tribunal, but some quasitors and/or other magi might be keeping an eye on the covenant's activities, possibly violating the code themselves in the process.
  • These hermetic adversaries might be genuinely concerned about infernal or heretical influence, or simply opportunistic; they may be correct or incorrect in their suspicions, and might stumble onto other improprities as a result of their survellience and investigations.
  • Despite its isolated locale in a regio, the covenant is not entirely protected from the anti-cathar crusade raging in the mundane world nearby, as evidenced by the recent miracle that transformed L3b. Inquisitors or others might find their way to the covenant and cause problems.

At the Covenant:

  • The covenant currently has a "don't ask don't tell" policy towards the cathar heresy and other oddities such as various forms of paganism and mystery that fall short of outright diabolism.
  • There is a cathar house church amongst the covenfolk. Currently, the divine aura is weak and surpressed, but that could change.
  • The order has relatively cordial relations with the church in this campaign; less so with more fundamentalist groups like inquisitors; more so with learned groups like the dominicans.

Around Level 5:

  • Infernal, divine, and magical creatures of course exist on the various levels; others may be attracted to them from elsewhere and show up, causing trouble, or simply be "passing through" on the magical road from mundane a to mundane b. The magi may try to enact some sort of "toll" on intelligent beings passing through.
  • The is the mystery of where all the water in the lake on L5 goes, and investigation could turn up a significant find of aquam or perdo vis, or even a previously unknown regio level. Some theorize the existence of a mysterious 6th level under the lake, inhabited by watery wonders and possibly even connecting to the elemental realm of water.
  • Interraction with or hunting any number of magical animals, both beasts of virtue and warped creatures, could occur to start the great menagerie or in response to its creation.

Level 7:

  • Collecting the ignem vis on L7 could lead to discovery of a mystery cult from tM:RE. The "pagan temple" may be an ancient or neo-mercurian site, be used occasionally by a mystery cult, or even have connections to hyperborean magic or other Ancient magic from AM.

  • Developing rituals based on the writings of the covenant's founder may lead to the creation of higher regio levels, a path to the fairie or magic realms, or even heaven or hell. Hermitic breakthroughs may be necessary for this and many other story seeds.

  • The caldera could be explored. Powerful magical creatures, possibly including a dragon, may reside there.

  • Finally, of course, there is the exit from L7, which shifts over time and can lead anywhere in Mythic Europe...

If there is anyone I have not yet bored to tears with my campaign description, here's the full write up of the covenant's Boons and Hooks:

Note that the PC's haven't actually gotten to this covenant yet. They have only created their first grogs, who are currently journeying to the covenant for the first time to join it. Next sesssion they willl learns about the covenant and create their first magi, characters who are about to undergo a unique gauntlet involving Calebais.

So it's not too late to correct any tremendous errors in judgement I may have made as a first time AM storyguide, if any of you kindly experienced folk have suggestions as to changes that might be wise.

Like it. Lots even. Definitely not bored.

You´re aware that you don´t need to balance each category by itself as you´ve done there?
Still, very neatly done.

Certainly cant see anything obvious beyond what i noted above, that Boons and Hooks only need to be balanced as totals. And since you done that as excellently as you have anyway, that´s not something that needs change. I would rather it not change. As i said, i already like it. Looks like it could be a great setting.

Thanks man. I had a lot of fun putting it together and I'm hoping my players like it, but as I keep saying, this is my first time with Ars so I appreciate the feedback. I actually did catch the bit about boons and hooks balancing overall just like character virtues and flaws. I was pretty sure that, unlike characters, there was no limit to the total number, as long as they balanced overall and the SG and troupe approved of the choices, as I didn't see any definitive limits.

I almost noted this in my writeup - the funny thing was, I just went along through the book, picking things out that sounded interesting and supported my concept, planning on coming back and balancing it at the end. Without planning it that way, each group balanced neatly as I developed it.

Residents was at -1, but then I noticed that the Magical (Soldiers) major boon "requires any other soldier." I took this boon to represent the large numbers of grogs with second sight and other supernatural virtues, and because they may develop a menagerie - the regio has magical lions, eagles, and horses, although they currently only breed horses - can you say breeding for griffons and hippogriffs? So I decided to take the Cavalry minor boon to represent the magical horses the supernatural grogs use.

Similarly, the fortifications were at +3. Then I realized that, while the main covenant buildings are wooden, the guard "towers" taken through multiple Important Building Minor Boons could be enough to require the Castle Major Hook. They're pillboxes, really, in modern parlance. I used this boon rather than the similar Edifices minor boon, because that one is more focused on inspiring awe, IB is the generic catchall for significant structures that don't fit into another category. Covenants p14 states that "edifices do not require the castle hook unless several of them, grouped together, form a structure as threatening as a castle." I decided that, weather I called them edifices or important buildings, taken as a whole, positioned where they are in the regios, and with ballistas mounted on top, they justified the castle hook.

At that point, I realized that ALL my categories balanced without the need for any additions or I called it good.

Up next, the covenant's roster and annual income/expenses!

Realized I haven't updated this thread in a while. If anyone is still following, I have added the covenant's inhabitants, finances, roster, and Oath/Charter:

Inhabitants: ... mpscTUyOGc

Finances: ... VJEYllvUVE

Cost Savings: [url] ... jhmWGNPaWc


Have you checked that the cost saving measures actually save you more money than they cost?

No. don't really care either, to be honest - it gets nightmarish to figure out -let's see, one thatcher will reduce housing costs, but needs to be housed and fed himself, then that peasant feeding him needs to he housed, etc).

It worked out so that the covenant is running a modest surplus; room to grow a few more grogs/companions/dependents, at present, just about right for getting eaten up in pet projects. As SG, that's what I was aiming for so I called it good. Might revise later when I get Metacreator and the calcs become easier.

Also, covenants mention that you don't need to account for costs of people supported by businesses. At SE, we pay many of these folks a modest stipend as well as free room/board. The minor additional cost is well worth the loyalty and camraderie it engenders.

Wow. You've got pretty much everything in there at once. :smiley:

The only thing I would raise as a possible gotcha is the group don't have to travel in order to engage in a very wide variety of adventures. They've got a saga on their doorstep, quite literally. I'd spread things out a bit - you've already got a magical teleporter-portal anyway. If the group really want to live in a volcano or construct a great tower, they'll work it out. Even if it means relocating the covenant or home-growing a volcano.

If you have everything in arms reach, it changes the way your saga stories happen. With everyone's characters constantly a five-minute hop away, you'll see a lot of shuffling of characters. A lot of 'let me just grab my magus' or 'let me go grab our expert in ...' There's nothing inherently wrong with this, it's more a case of be aware that you're setting things up to work like this far more often than not. If you're cool with it, it's all good.

As a side note - which you can ignore as much as you like: the Inquisition doesn't exist in the sense that we recognise it today back in the 13th century. The then-newly-created Dominican Order are the closest equivalent, and since their remit is primarily heresy (especially with regard to the Cathars), they're probably not going to give a fig about the Order of Hermes unless the Order starts being all heretical. Practicing magic isn't heresy and you're as likely to meet a Dominican who has read a bit of magic theory and finds the whole thing fascinating as you are to meet a Dominican who is all fire-and-brimstone about even the slightest mention of magic.

Note also that the Cathars weren't the innocent victims of Church aggression that they are sometimes painted as. There's a lot about the Cathar movement that was pretty nasty, which means you're going to get good people who oppose them as well as bad ones. It's something I love about the setting as a whole: Mythic Europe, like real Europe, doesn't have good guys and bad guys in easily delineated groups. The Church has good guys in it, and it has bad guys in it. The Cathars are the same. So is the Order.

Anyway, with the covenant being so removed from mundane affairs I'd say don't worry about defining the 'good/bad' of organisations. If you have a cool concept for a Dominican villain who persecutes the covenant or its allies, go for it! It only makes the world seem more real when the group finally run into some other Dominicans who aren't asshats.

Oh yes, the Grogs have already met a good, open-minded Dominican. Magic in my saga isn't inherently sinful.

I know the Cathars are a mixed bag. One senior magus of the covenant made the progression doubter-cathar-luciferian. Others, including the secret cathar house church amongst the grogs, are sincere believers in the divine.

I know that "Inquisition" is anacronistic. I care somewhat about historical accuracy, my players not a bit. So in this saga, the Inquisition is already a growing force within the church, for good and ill, moving behind the first "heresy scouts" of the Dominicians, the main crusading armies that strike at the heart of catharism to "mop up" remnants of infernalism and heresy.

As for the "they'll never want to leave" my players did ask for a high fantasy setting with little mundane interraction. I tried to deliver while still giving opportunities for interraction when desired. As for my "kitchen sink" approach, this being their first ars game, they couldn't say what would interest them over time, so I threw in a lot, creating a microcosm of the mythic elements of mythic europe. What doesn't get used will fade into the background. The boons will become as irrelevant as the hooks, and it will all balance just fine.

Help always being at hand could be a problem. Working on managing that. Of course, others could be busy. Who do you think is keeping all those untended hooks at bay? :wink: