The Schism War - Plot Ideas

Howdy all,

I have a group of novice magi in Loch Leglean in 998AD. One of the themes of our game is going to be the build-up to, and finally the fighting in the Schism War.

I am looking for ideas for events that can highlight the growing tension.

I figure the Tremere has already been briefed by his Exarch that trouble is coming and I can send him on various scouting missions as his service to the house. But any suggestions on how to portray the tensions in the order?

I can mention a declared Wizard's War and note that the numbers are up. Perhaps note a covenant that used to offer hospitality that no longer does.

Other ideas?



I find the Schism War very interesting as well - but an important question to be able to give you the ideas is what your take is on the Schism War:

Are the Diedne diabolists? Are they scapegoats? Are the Tremere the mastermind of the March against the Diedne? Do you use the Pican League?

This is a hard one to answer. IMO, they were not diabolists - they were merely adherants to ancient druidic/celtic/blood magics and cults. However, there is a fine line between bloody pagan worship and the the infernal.

We know that pagan gods are faeries. IMO, evil is in the eye of the beholder. What I mean, is that if you are worhipping a pagan god who requires blood sacrifice - as long as this practice is generally acceptable to the people in the community it is not evil - and thus not infernal. If your community changes, for example adopting Christianity and you continue to sacrrfice, the Fey may go away - chased off by the divine aura or by the lack of interest in the general populance, but something will come along and start using that sacrfice. That something is the infernal.

So, this is a long-winded way of saying that maybe, some of the Diedne were diabolists. Maybe some of those ones were and didn't know it - as they were merely continuing their old ways. Maybe they were and they knew it but didn't know how to get out of it. Maybe they knew and didn't care as it gave them power to fight the - to their mind - evil divine.

This is a hard one to answer. I would say 'yes', House Tremere decided that the Diedne had to go. The druids were staunchly sticking to the old ways and as such were tempting the infernal. It may not have been deliberate but it was going to happen. Those same old ways were going to upset the mundanes and particularily the church. Both were in violation of the Code (though it may not have been in the code back then?).

I don't think it was any kind of small-minded political move, it was a genuine "This is a threat to the order" move. It was pre-planned (evidenced by the foundation of Ungulas in Stone Henge) though perhaps the actual beginning caught people by surprise (evidence the destruction of Lux Draconis in Stone Henge). Marching the Rowan Gild was the official kick off - in Tremere's opinion.

What is the Pican League?

Of course, having said that, the Schism war could have become a self-fulfillng prophecy. When you are fighting for your life against overwhelming odds you may be inclined to accept and to use any power you can get your hands on.

Those of Diedne who were borderline infernal could verywell have plunged whole-heartly into it with the declaration of war. Thus, once open warfare began many Diedne would have started replying with infernal magic and demonic sendings which may have been what eventually brought the rest of the Order in on things.

This is what happened IMS. The few remaining Diedne magi (generally the more powerful ones) succumbed to the infernal in order to save themselves. Protected by demonic illusions ("what do you mean you can't find him, silly hoplite!") they sequestered themselves away and began the slow drive to bring about their resurgence. Tainted by demons their resurgence became their revenge and their apprentices were immediately inducted into a blooody diablolist version of Diedne magic.

As things stand the Diedne are making themselves known again, although those pesky PC keep throwing spanners in their works.

Good story themes to highlight the coming scrap would be things that reflect the slow breakdown of order and the rule of law within the order. i.e. magi openly refusing to pay guernicus fines, increased wizards wars, desperate marches by the quaesitors on the worst perpetrators as they struggle to maintain control, redcaps travelling with bodyguards and avoiding certain areas of the tribunal (too dangerous).

Every tribunal should degenerate into a shouting match between the numerically superior Diedne and the Tremere, Flambeau and Tytalus, with all the other houses in the middle getting scared and confused.

Then include a few sparks to the oil. e.g. A diedne refusing certamen with a tremere with the words "I refuse to play your foolish games Tremere" is then challenged by a furious Flambeau/Tytalus to a full on mageduel, to the death. The quaesitors try to step in but the Diedne accepts. A mage dies messily on the floor of the tribunal. That should really freak the characters out.

Finally, start the war proper by razing a covenant.

True. An interesting point here is that the sourcebook ´Lion of the Norht´ to Ars Magica 3rd ed. hints that there where no demons in scotland until the normans arrived. Aparently the pagan practices of the picts did not attract infernal attention...

Further schemes to explore:
Also in lion of the north, the grugach, the main ex misc group are an organization of pictish wizards, according to the book the diedne used a powerful ritual to help the scots defeat/abosrb the pictish by destroying the pictish langauge that was needed by grugach to perform magic, thus resulting in a period where the grugach had to rediscover their spellcasting langauge. That sets up the loch legaen tribunal as being primarly ex misc hating the diedne who control stonehenge.

Play up the latin/germanic divide in the order. Diedne are allies to the merinita nature mages and to the bjornaer, their numbers are substantial. At the same time raise the specter of the Order of Odin making trouble for the latin houses in the north, but not touching the diedne or their allies. The Diedne say this is because they don't provoke the Odin's like crusading flambuae do.

Play political games: As the diedne are in control of the celtic tribunals, that would be stonehenge, normandy and hibernia. They would have some control over loch legaen. The bjornaer and merinta together with the ex misc would have control over novgorod and substantial influence in the rhine. Play up how this gives them a strong say in the grand tribunal. Also play up how these factions are fighting against the incursion of the divine into their territory. Have the hermetic law that magus cannot incur the wrath of the divine being introduced by the latin mages, but strongly opposed by the diedne. Have the diedne try to introduce the rhine law that mages must defend magical forests against mundanes as a general hermetic law.

This leads to an honest misconception by the christian mages of the latin houses. God equals saving your soul, all else means damnation, so any who oppose christianity are damned. The diedne are pagans, ergo they worship false idols, they fight the spread of christianity, they slaughter innocents for encrouching on forest territory. That is a whole host of sins there. While not all latin mages will be devout christians, they should all believe in god and heaven and hell. They should all want to end up in heaven when they die.

All in all have it a struggle for the soul of the hermetic order between the diedne faction, who believe in the power of magic and faerie, and want to safeguard the wild places of power, and the god fearing latin faction. Have the divide even enough that the swing vote of nutrel mages is small, and players are struggling to bribe persuade and threaten the votes at the grand tribunal.

In the canon history the merinita and bjornaer were scared into staying out of the fighting when the hostilities started. So there is plenty to play with there, applying the pressure that would prevent the complete civil war of the order.


The Pagan practice of 'human sacrifice' was simple. The would take a well known convicted criminal, sentenced to die, and sacrifice them to their god.

Human sacrifice or efficency?

Is this any worse than what continues to happen even today???

Or any better?

Yinkin, I see you've already recieved plenty of ideas and suggestions. The beauty of the Schism is that there's so many possible takes on what happened and therefore so many potential plotlines... I wont reveal my own present take on the Schism War here because it's rather intrisic to metaplot lines of our saga - and saying to much here might ruin some of the experiance for people of my troupe that might be on the forum... ( :unamused: )

The Pican League (inspired by the latin picus for the god Mars' avatar as a woodpecker) btw is a group of Tremere, Flambeau and Tytalus magi that gathered in the years before the Schism War. Their goals were to strengthen the Order and they were instrumental in bringing about the War. This all old Ars and I haven't seen any mentioning of the League in 5th ed books - but a google on Pican League and Schism War might find you some more material.

I like many off the ideas already posted so I'll just add that the time preceeding the War was characterised by much violance - not only between the factions that would later fight in the War - so a general atmosphere of distrust and quick on declaring Wizard Wars might also be good to show the growing tension.

Or you could look at the war as a power grab by tremere/tytalus/flambeau (called the big 3 in the rest of the post). These 3 houses who are supposed to be the tough guys of the order go up against a diedne. With their ability to spont spells the diedne easily counter spell all the efforts against them. The big 3 demand to be taught this ability "to strengthen the order" when it was really "oh shoot they can kick our buts, we need to learn this".
The diedne refuse to teach house traditions without teaching the beleifs behind them, or can't overcome the prior beleifs on how to properly spont spells, the big 3 promote this as witholding magical knowledge that would benefit the order, and paint a senario where the deidne are only taking knowledge and not teaching in return "they must have plans to take over the order"
the big 3 convince some of the other houses to join the crusade by promising to learn the secrets to the deidne magic (better spontaneous spells), and so the war begins....


The Diedne were plotting with House Guernicus to destroy Tremere...
perhaps they found out that Diedne sided against them...

Revenge? Greed? Huh..two of the most powerful motivators for murder...
Maybe they just had ^$#@*& envy...Diedne had a bigger one...
so add Jealousy...the third primary motivation.

Quick question, are there any books or reading material that I can get my hands on that would explain in more depth who the Diedne were, and more of what sort of magic they used. I myself was planning on startuing my campaign in this era, and wanted to get a template of the Diedne wizards. Also, where do you guys go for references for magican creatures and the fae?

There is a Diedne Magic Virtue in the main 5th ed Rules, which makes really good at Spontanious Magic. The old Order of Hermes book says that "having descended from druids, they specialized in nature -oriented magic. Their ability to work formulaic spells were highly limited."

I seem to remember that typically they couldn't even do Ritual spells, and often had Elemental Magic virtue (which was different at the time, I think it was something like +4 with the 4 elemental arts).

I think this stuff was covered in the adventure "The Tempest" which delt with descendends of Mercurian and Diedne traditions waging war against each other.

Some interestig suggestion there. Fun to read. :slight_smile:

The Medieval Bestiary provides some, Faeries provides more faerie creatures; none of them for ArM5, so you will need to convert (lower their Might!). Faeries is also available as a pdf from

I suppose adventures are another source for creatures. Things like Faerie Tales.

I usually just don't - I make them up, in ArM. I just whip out something that seems appropriate, keeping the PC's powers and magic resistance in mind.

And oooh.... when, oh when, will Ancient Magic arrive.

My saga leans heavily on the Schism War for larger plotlines. I've taken my inspiration from The Tempest, the old version Houses of Hermes and from online fan-material.