So, I wanted to discuss the potential of an AU for Ars Magica in which a different house provoked the Schism War, so that House Diedne survived to the game period.
I composed a few possibilities for what the presence of House Diedne might do to the development of hermetic magic and proposed a few of the other houses to be the victim of the Schism War (and how this impacted general hermetic magic and culture).
The survival of House Diedne led to the development of more flexible magical techniques- both due to the presence of a house who specialized in spontaneous and flexible magic and also because of the lack of a political prohibition into such areas of research.
As such, all Hermetic Magi have the Flexible Formulaic Magic virtue as a standard part of Hermetic Magic.
Additionally, the presence of more specialists in Aquam and Aurum magic led to the eventual partial integration of the Elementalist virtue. Hermetic Magi may, when opening the arts of an apprentice, grant them the Affinity virtue for one of the four elemental arts.
However, the magic of the house that fell during the schism war suffered from political repression and the extinction of many of their magical practices.
Some possible candidates:
House Verditius was long a proud house with many secrets. After rumors of them practicing rituals that could damage or even destroy the Gift reached a peak, a story began to spread of a young magus who, after offending a powerful Verditius maga, had his gift utterly sundered by a powerful magic item she wielded. Distrust and envy turned to panic rapidly as a magi, whose name and house are lost to history, presented such a sword as evidence of the house’s wrong-doings.
Struck deep by the fear of the loss of their magical power, the other houses mobilized quickly and turned on the Verditius. Magic rumbled across the Mediterranean Sea as they laid siege to the final sanctuary of the cursed house- Mount Etna.
Eventually, the remnants of the house were scattered or destroyed- dragged from the smithies, tools broken and lives ended.
The hermetic order still has a strong cultural prohibition against creating more magical items that are strictly necessary. Those that are created are expected to be clearly reported to the local tribunal. Those with unusual talent in artifice are often accused or brought to trial for being secret Verditius wizards.
Hermetic magic in this timeline suffers from poor magic item creation, from the loss of so much knowledge and the cultural backlash that followed. Notably:
- The Linked Trigger and Concentration item modification effects are not available.
- Charged items are noticeably worse- a charge is gained for every ten levels, or fraction thereof, of a magus’s lab total.
- Finally, when making instilled items all hermetic magi act as if they had the Waster of Vis flaw.
Characters with the Verditius Magic Major Virtue ignore these limitations for magic item creation in addition to gaining the benefits of both the Verditius Magic minor virtue and the Verditius Elder Runes minor mystery virtue. It also conveys the Dark Secret flaw, in that the character is secretly a descendant of house Verditius.
House Bjornaer, always a house with strange and pagan seeming ways, began to experience problems when other magi began to accuse them of stealing and devouring gifted children in dark and diabolic rituals for their own personal power. Rather than responding to these accusations, the house simply became more and more insular and distant. Eventually, an investigation led to the discovery of one of their sacred cultic sites. It’s unclear what was found there, but the response from house Bjornaer was absolute, brutal and a complete violation of the code.
Seizing on this, the other houses began to agitate and push until open warfare broke out. While the initial conflict was explosive, the war soon began to become a long and drawn out struggle. Bjornaer Magi disappeared into the wilderness- taking refuge in the seas, skies and forests. It became increasingly difficult to even find them, and they would emerge explosively from unexpected places- often in vast and terrifying monstrous forms.
The Order of Hermes never really won the Schism War- they simply reached a point where the Bjornaer attacks became rarer and rarer as their numbers dwindled.
Because of the incredibly prolonged war the Order suffered, their magic has become more focused on survival and defense. Theoretical research flagged, in the following notable ways:
- This version of the Order lacks the innovations that allow Vim to affect Realms other than Magic.
- Circle magic was never properly integrated from the tradition of the Columbae- it exists within the order as a minor Hermetic virtue.
- Additionally, the continual unexpected death of magi left many apprentices without proper tutelage- many hermetic wizards suffer from Hermetic flaws such as Deficient (Form).
Shapeshifting into animal forms is considered, legally, a forfeiture of one’s hermetic rights- much like entering another Magi’s sanctum. The threat of beast-wizards has driven the Order to paranoia. Displaying one’s familiar with incredible openness is very common in the culture of the order, as this is seen as one of the few definitive ways to identify someone as being of the proper Order.
Characters with the Bjornaer Magic Major Virtue have the Heartbeast Minor Virtue and one of the three Inner Mysteries of the House (HoH:M pg 30-33). Capable of turning into beasts of legend, terrifying chimeras and elemental monsters- the Bjornaers have become few but fearsome. Unlike what Hermetic Magi fear, few Bjornaers try to infiltrate the order. They live in isolation or work alongside traditions of Folk Witches that they have adopted and mold into a facsimile of their fallen House. Bjornaer Magic gain the Enemies (The Hermetic Order) Major Flaw.
There are non-hermetic Bjornaer characters. These are typically Folk Witches who exchange their Shapeshifter ability for the Heartbeast Ability. Some Bjornaer magi have taken their connection to their new covens even further, setting themselves up as the bestial queens or gods of these witches and granting them other mystery initiations adapted from Bjornaer magic.
At least one has taught her flock the coveted secrets of the Parma Magic and hopes to one day lead them against the Order in terrible vengeance.