The Planning/Creation of a Spring Covenenant as Saga starter

I'm not talking about running a Spring Covenant, one that already has been organized with location, personnel and resources ready and waiting. I'm talking about what it takes before that, where all those things we take for granted come from.

So often, a Spring Saga starts "You hear of/are invited to join a new Spring Covenant..." I've wondered what, exactly, the back-story to a Spring Covenant is! How did it come into being, what are the machinations, politics and bargains that occur long before a single stone is laid, before the invitations (or whatever) even get drafted.

One of the things I always thought would happen to apprentices approaching their Gauntlet would be something like a combination of College Interviews, Pro-Sports Draft, and personal Networking, with a good dose of Nepotism tossed in, as the various Apprentices, their Parens, and interested existing Covenants and Tribunals all jockey for the "best" combination they can get - for whatever their personal goals are in the situation. (And if this rings a bell to any old-timers on these boards, I've talked of it before, tangentially.)

And if you think that doesn't involve politics, and both pro and con, and endless back-room deals, you're not thinking it through. The Parens would be as much or more involved than the apprentices are.

If they are to gain a Covenant, all the groundwork was laid long before - the allies, the resources, the permission for them (as opposed to any other group!) to claim that location in that particular Tribunal, debts promised and deals cut to gain those impressive libraries and lab equipment (or not!), etc etc. If older magi are to be included, they may be the center of one or more of these efforts, but, just like the first day of playground at recess, there will be an ongoing scramble to make the best "team" you can gather around you (or to limit that team if the desire is to see the Covenant fail!). And this would be cross-tribunal - not like there are so many apprentices each year that each tribunals only pick from their own*.

(* in another thread, it was (very!) roughly estimated that there is on average maybe 1, or just less than 1 Spring Covenant/7 year cycle.

Offers, rumours, backstabbing and double-dealing, recruits desirable and otherwise, NPC groups with different agendas, all can be part and parcel of this event, and then of any visit to or from other magi until their gauntlet.

Now, the reason I bring this up is more than just mental fodder. I'd consider running this effort, here as PbP, but (besides interest) I'd also need some helpful suggestions in solving some of the practical considerations. Specifically...1) How to create the characters? Starting maybe 3 (or so?) years pre-Gauntlet.

  1. How to create their Parens, or other interested magi? Full CharGen seems a bit excessive, especially if you have several full covenants (the PC's or other) that may have an active and group interest in the success/failure of this venture, or one of the applicants.

  2. What level of participation, IC, would apprentices have? (I could see some Houses (Criamon?) could be less, or perhaps more (Tremere?) if part of the Gauntlet is this activity itself.

  3. How best to involve Players/Magi who are not, by their nature, politically minded? Several ideas come to mind, such as being caught up in plots or with knowledge of same, but additional brainpower is desired here.I think that if we can make this work, then the magi who arrive at that Spring Covenant will have a different dynamic between them, and the Saga as a whole might have a very different feel, one far more "possessive" and prideful of what is accomplished- or at least, I'd like to see. If/when I feel I can do justice to this effort, and have 4-6 players committed to the effort, I'd start up the game and post a link here. Until then, thought, comments, questions, random tangents, all welcome as grist for the mill.

(I've posted a sign up sheet - just in case we do end up with a game - under the PbP forums. No promises, we'll just have to see.)

I have tried this a few times, and it didn't work out nearly as well as I had hoped.

One of the great attractions of playing AM--dabbling in magic--is lost when there is no established covenant. Instead, there's just backstory and backstory and backstory, with magic ability taking a firm back seat to social abilities.

The covenant really is a central character in most AM sagas.

If I were to run a start-up covenant again, I'd go with one of two paths:

  1. I have an NPC who founded the covenant, sort of as a start-up. I describe the covenant in full, except for background secrets. The players get to create characters who "belong" in that covenant, with back stories that explain how that happened. The game begins after the characters have already settled into their covenant.

  2. The players design their covenant and characters. The game begins a few years later, after the characters have scribed their starting knowledge into books which form the initial covenant library, and after they have mostly settled in. There can be variations on this. I once toyed with a saga that began with magi accompanying and supporting the First Crusade in return for right to a piece of conquered land. The first act of the game would then consist of stories about the Crusade, followed by a few years of downtime before the second act, during which the covenant was coming together.



Yeah, I'm aware that it would take players willing to run late-stage apprentices (at least to start), but starting at an age of Gauntlet-3 or so makes them "almost" as powerful as newly gauntleted magi. There are many attractions in AM, and in my experience that type of player will be excited about running the character more than just the magic, or at least find adequate attraction in both.

As far as the endless "backstory"- not so much, I'd think. The plotlines - allies and enemies, discoveries and mysteries - would carry over as active parts of the ongoing Saga.

Your suggestions are good for the average Spring Saga, but they're exactly the thing I wanted to avoid with this exercise - avoiding those cliches is exactly why I'm suggesting this possibility - I wanted to see all the things that you're suggesting sweeping under the carpet and taking for granted. Thanks for the warning, but I know this is not everyone's cup of vis - hence this discussion, rather than a premature announcement that I'd be starting the game.

I've been dabbling with a story where the characters are started 1/3 of the way through apprenticeship. The stories have them traveling to other locations with their masters a meeting other magi. Being played out they will also be a bit stronger than pregenerated fresh from apprentice magi. The characters are more interested in researching mystical sights so they will probally be wandering magi when they gauntlet.

Any thoughts on the aspects I'm considering?

Yes. Give us some time to write them down man!!! xD LOL

Basically I tend to agree: it is cool as a concept, but it is difficult in practice. it tends to play better in the head of the wannabe SG than in real play.

More thoughts (edit of post) later with possible solutions an an explanation of what I have done with my troupe over the years since we have done both approaches.


(Actually, I was prompting Agnar, since his set-up could go in this direction, but didn't comment on whether he had considered it at all.)

Standing by...


Still standing by...


This is me, patiently, standing by...


Being patient while still standing by... 8)

This is actually a nifty idea. Personally, I'd focus less on the apprentices and more on the parens' side, since that's what's most fresh here.

Curiously, your angle picks up on some unexpected frustrating logistics. For starters, it's almost inconceiveable for any 6 wizards living near each other to all have apprentices pass a gauntlet in the same year, let alone for these wizards to have any sort of friendly connection to each other or a single personality. That in itself is pretty interesting.

What are the goals in creating a new covenant? What is to be gained by these elder magi politically? This stuff is interesting, and I think a lot depends on the players. I'd develop a good portion of this cooperatively with them in some way, to ensure the stories were one's they'd like to tell and have told. Is one covenant trying to impose on another covenant? Is there some mystery some larger covenant would like investigated? Is there a setup for a rivalry or a war within the order? Did people go poof and die and there is a power vacuum and people are making maneuvers...

I'll think on this more, but I like the premise.

Good point- one of the conventions, I realized while reading your comment, would likely be for each player to play one of the interested Sr. magi - whether that mage is a Parens or has some other vested interest - in the same way that in a "normal" Saga each player might play a Companion, or another magi's shield grog or familiar (ymmv on that last). Additional magi would be NPC's, but those "on our team" would be Player controlled, if not wholly designed.

Since the soon-to-no-longer-be-Apprentices have almost no political clout, their interaction would be those of prospetive recruit rather than recruiter, but also of manipulator and competitor in a do-or-die game of "pick me" vs all the other potentials.

A Spring covenant, unless carefully and specifically orchestrated, would pull magi from all over the Hermetic world. This is not as critical now that AM5th supports CharGen of magi of any Hermetic Age so well, but there has to be some method that has become traditional of networking these prospects more than accidental word-of-mouth, some expected format or conclave or showcase, formal or not, where the prospective recruits and magi interested in sponsoring a Spring Covenant can make life easier for everyone.

There would also be some factions, Houses or Covenants or individual magi, interested in seeing a Spring Covenant NOT appear in a particular location, or with particular Houses represented, or to succeed where it is place! Losing political power, land, resources, a voting block, a balance of Power, or something as simple as an old grudge can create instant "enemies" to a Spring Covenant before the cornerstone has even been laid!

This would require much more thought about Parens, Home Covenant and Tribunal environment than is usually in place in such detail for a beginning character/Saga, but, once extant, would only keep adding to the depth of the storylines.

It would also build a Covenant more "organically" than a simple +/- accounting of points, hooks and boons, and would create an understanding, from personal In Game experience, that "Our library is great because of the gifts of X magus, adn that's why we owe him a big favour; we can call upon Y covenant because our success is in their best interests too, and we suspect our labs suck because Z covenant stole our shipment of glass from Venice and might still be spying on us..."

In my current Saga, I'm using the Curse of the Rhine Gorge idea from Guardians of the Forest. The magi were freshly gauntleted from various covenants, including a Bjornaer from Crintera, a Verditius from Occulus Septentrionalis and a Tremere from Triamore, joined by a Redcap from Fengheld and an Ex Miscellanea from Hybernia.

They began with a supply of silver and vis donated by Durenmar, Fengheld and Crintera but that was it. We playede through their exploration of former covenant sites and they finally decided to settle in the mountains north of Mainz. There we used a combination of the Covenants book rules and role-playing to stat out their new covenant.

They just got things settled in time for the Tribunal where they sought out sponsors and just managed to get their covenant approved by the Tribunal.

They're in the fourth year of the Saga now and are just getting to the point where steady lab work and study is possible. We started in May, playing every other week and only gone through four years game time. That's been the drawback. The advantage is that the Troupe has a greater connection to their covenant than any but the first saga I've run or played in. In that I accomplished what I wanted in the start from scratch approach. The players have a sense of ownership in the covenant and there's a story behind almost everything in it.

In my current online saga (hopefully to take off soon), while I'm not following the format you suggested of apprentices and the background of forming up a Spring Covenant, I think it would have worked rather nicely.

It is set in the middle of the 12th century and the Rhine still feels the loss of potential territory to the Novgorod (as well as the Theban and Transilvanian, but MS focuses more on the Rhine). Fengheld declared at tribunal they would be creating a chapter house in recently fragmented Poland, in what the Rhine considers to be "contested area" between the Novgorod and the Rhine. In fact, the area is secure in the hands of the Novgorod tribunal, but Fengheld thinks establishing a covenant there successfully will aid in their claiming more eastward territory to the Rhine in the next Grand Tribunal. There is still a lof of bad blood in the Rhine in relation to the deflection of Great Silesia, specially from Durenmar and Irencelia magi, as well as a number of Bjornaer from Crintera who felt they should have access to that wild area as well. So the three covenants and their allies vetoed Fengheld's chapter house, and in the end the tribunal ruled that a covenant could indeed be created if it had representatives from all four covenants, as well as direct sponsoring from all four. Not a chapter house but a covenant, to try and gain influence in the area so that a border expansion can be argued for at Grand Tribunal.

I believe it might have been an interesting experience if I had tried to run this whole proccess with the players as magi from Fengheld, Crintera, Irencelia and Durenmar, perhaps their own parens. As for the improbability of a number of recently gauntleted magi being from the same area, 5th Edition indeed allows for magi of different ages to be created though I limited them to 10 years at most, as I figured the four covenants wouldn't want to send their most inexperienced magi - the covenant is to succed afterall!
10 years allows for the players to play their own magi during the tribunal and also both before and afterwards, in the plotting and the actual setting of the place.

OTOH it might have failed miserably, ruining thus a perfectly good idea for a saga... :wink:

And you'll have to stand by even more since I posted that just before work and (like i am now) didn't have the time to add more...possibly tonight I'll find time to follow up more

I am thinking about doing something like this as a prelude to my upcoming PbP Saga.

The prelude starts out with the discovery of a magical portal linking Obri Hrad (the Giants Castle in the Bohemian Forest) with a ruined city in North Arfica. There is an eremitic Magus, a very powerful but reclusive Master, who has long since claimed (and held) Obri Hrad as his sanctum. His Parens discovered various valuable qualities of the site, and he has inhereted the fortress there - including a tower built by his Pater and handed down to him years ago (his sanctum proper).

On discovering the portal more than a century ago, his Pater was unable to analyze its non-hermetic working but the current master of Obri Hrad succeeded six years ago. In a shrewd political manuever this fellow auctioned off rights for travel throught he portal, and for participation in the structured formation of a covenant at the other end. The PCs are young magi who's home covenants have won settlement rights. They are to come supported as their home covenant deems suitable, and venture through the portal to found the covenant from scratch. The new covenant is formally guaranteed its independance under Charter - which has already been ratified by House Guernicus ... of course everyone involved is aware that the new covenant is politicaly tied to the sponsors of the PC Magi.

The Master of Obri Hrad intends on the covenant being his ally, becuase he controls the Rhine end of the gate. Also, through the connections the new covenant will have to the older, established covenants that made their bids in auction, he will indirectly have a web of new allies. He comes out ahead through the impressive profit he has already made, and through a few choice (and fixed) clauses in the new Covenant Charter that guarantee him a 5% toll on all resources coming back through from North Africa to the Rhine.

When I saw the ideas here to do something starting at the late apprentice stage it really seemed to dovetail with my concept.

In the scenario above, the home covenants of the various Magi have invested some serious resources in the bid for settlement rights, and they made their bids to the Gate Master in 1214 - six years before game start - which works out to at least one year prior to the guantleting of all the (then) apprentices. By the time the auction - conducted slowly by snail mail in rounds - closed in 1218 the young magi hoping to go will have had some time to prepare, and be prepared by their covenants.

The neat thing is that it should build up a very interesting history - and I might take it to the level you are talking about here, and actually run an auction as part of char gen. The bids were best made while the PCs were apprentices, becuase that way they are a controlled commodity. I also like to have IC reasons for limitng the starting age of new Magi. In this case, the timing of bids and such provides a limit of 5 years post guantlet character gen.

The work to implement it is in the development of the auction format. Perhaps using some criteria that the Gate Master has set out for the various covenants to bid against each other with. Maybe each covenant has a pool of resources they are willing to use, and a reserve that somehow should be limited ... need to invent some mechanic that makes the Players hesitant to bid away too much of their reserves. Of course, all the Players will have to keep bidding, as the PCs must win.

Perhaps the reserve resources can represent what the PCs get to take along for covenant formation ... while the bid resources are used up to secure position ... and maybe secure some priveldges for the PC Magi (things like priority of Gate use, various minor advantages in governance, partial rights to known vis harvest).

Anyhoo - lots of interesting possibilities. And all of the prelude stuff will be done through actual letters, I think, so that the PCs will have IC artefacts look back on.

to continue...
The full magi's, including the masters, abilities are generally done with a bit of handwaving. There is a personality and what they are focused in. For example: One is more of a pacifist and deals with intelligo/rego/mentem/vim.

Since the focus isn't on him that is plenty for when he needs to do something. more stats are added as needed, such as teaching quality. You could easily ignore those details and just dish out the percentage of apprenticeship experience left.

In general stories have been more about character development, how/why they have a specific virtue/flaw. There is no reason to say that when your arts are opened there is a crash of lightning and thunder and you have a full set of virtues/flaws. A character has the magical animal companion flaw...a big story so far has been aquiring that. Others have been more focused on personality traits and moral problems developing from there. These make it easy to create friends or enimies.

As I said they will probally be wandering magi so they won't need a covenant, but if they were I probally give free virtues/flaws like favors/enimies to represent the scheming of their masters/allies...these would transfer to the covenant virtues/flaws if you use those rules.

In general it works similar to a normal game except the players don't decide what they are going to learn unless they have a free season. (they can give a preference) It's also easier to make them do stuff by having the master give an order. The only characters you need details on are the important, enimies/allies the rest can be handwaved.

So, mild interest in the concept, not so much interest in actually playing a PbP on these boards Saga using same?

(feel free to post PM with any questions if you want, but it looks like I shouldn't hold my breath on this one.)

Some very interesting stuff being said here. Kudos Cuchulainshound for an interesting thread.

We started our saga (with players new to ars) using the freebie adventure. Forgive me but i can't remember what its called. Its the one where the senior mage goes into final twilight and the PCs have to sort his his dealings with a local monastery.

Anyhoo, we based the covenant off that. The senior mage was a Jerbiton called Stephen, he had wealthy mortal relations and a lot of favours in the tribunal. He cashed these all in in return for the right to start a covenant on his nephews land (his nephew being the mortal lord). He talked a number of apprentices (the PCs) into joining his covenant when they gauntleted. Two of them were from the same tribunal and one was from Iberia. The young magi made copies of lab texts, vain summae and such like for the covenants library and looked forward to a covenant where they would be out from under the heel of their parens.

Of course it all went wrong. It turns out that Stephen, despite being quite powerful was widely disliked. The PC's angered their old covenants by taking copies of the lab texts and books with them (they hadn't broken any cow and calf agreements, its more that the covenants weren't expecting them to leave so soon). And the PC's rapidly become aware that Stephen is hogging the lions share of the vis and wealth of the covenant. They are thus more free but much poorer than they would have been at their old covenants.

Stephen then final twilights leaving the PC's in a half built covenant, with no powerful magi, with most of the tribunal distrustful or resentful of them. They've since made most of this much better for themselves and are now 26 years out of gauntlet.

I must say that the one thing about starting with an incomplete covenant is that players take more pride in their covenant whe their characters have built it up themselves. In the case of my saga, almost every aspect of the covenant, from the great hall, the 9 mage towers, the curtain wall, the well armed and trained turb, the resident mercenary welsh bowmen, many of the vis sources, most of the staff. Its all been built, hired or found in game.

I might be interested in playing such a game, but I have to say the pbp format is not something I am used to.


Have you thought of a PBWiki?
Eg Mons Obscurus...
Now defunct or in long-term hiatus sadly.


If we're going to talk about a game, rather than wax philosophical about the concept behind it, let's do that in the proper forum:


Any others interested in this concept, or just to look over our shoulders at the nuts and bolts of creating/discussing a Play by Post saga, feel free to drop by.

But if you just want to comment on the concept and are not particularly interested in the saga itself, feel free to continue that on-topic discussion below...

In a Saga that our troupe is starting up over on RPOL we are integrating some ideas discussed here - ... 65935&wn=1

Everyone in the Troupe will be steping into the shoes of the 'sponsor' for their Magus/Maga PC. The sponsors are Rhine Tribunal covenants who have been convinced to support the formation of a new covenant that will 'colonize' North Africa as a legal extension of the Rhine Tribunal.

This sponsorship has been formalized into a bidding process by mutual agreement of various Elder Magi of the Rhine, Tribunal votes, etc. Each sponsor covenant has hand picked a willing apprentice and moulded them - and is now bidding for governance rights to be assigned to their defacto representatives.

It looks like covenant formation will be fun. A nifty experiment all in all.