...not sure whether I need a spoiler Tag for a 16 year old adventure...
I'm actually running Calebais for the first time, and my players have finally, after much hardship, made their way down to the Bell's chamber. High time for me to get into the rules behind the Bell, even thoug they still need to get through chapter three to properly use the Bell...
...and honestly, from reading the Bell doesn't seem to be all that much, certainly not the "extremely powerful artifact" it's lauded as. The effects of the Bell are mostly Lvl 20 or 30, which isn't quite earth-shattering, and it doesn't even seem to have anything pushing the hermetic boundaries - where's the "strange, non-hermetic Magic" that's attributed to the bell?
Compared to some of the other stuff happening in Calebais, like the Veil or the magic the Ghosts of the Magi can fling around, the Bell seems... somewhat tame, and grabbing it after all the troubles seems somewhat anticlimatic...
So - is there anything about the Bell that I'm just not seeing, anything that makes it much more exciting than I feel about it currently? I'm keen to be enlightened on why the Bell is awesome...
Failing that, what would you do to spice up the Bell, so that it feels like a worthwhile trophy after the players have spent many seasons on exploring Calebais or on developing spells and magic items to counter the specific threats of the fallen Covenant?
If I quickly look up Calebais (the 2004 version) again, I find:
One of the more well-known magical artifacts in the Order of Hermes is the Bell of Ibyn. This is not so much because of its power (though it is formidable) or because of its strange origins, but rather because of the pride the magi of Calebais had in it.
The strange, non-Hermetic magic of the bell is not in extremely powerful effects.
But you find it in the relation of the bell to the covenant it is aligned to:
II. Any time a human dies within the boundary that surrounds the covenant, the Bell will ring from one to six times, depending on the victim’s power and importance in the covenant. If any of the characters die during the story, even in the forest that surrounds Calebais, the Bell will ring, but with a horribly flat sound. (InCo20)
If PC magi get it to work again, after questioning the ghosts, lab investigation and tracking down the ritual to repair the bell, they find, that attuning it again is pretty non-Hermetic.
As the letter describes, the characters must perform an intensive magical ritual to bring forth the hidden powers of the Bell of Ibyn. This involves determining what traits the 24 symbols on the Bell represent, and finding characters to best represent each one. This may be the source of many interesting stories in the future, if the covenant does not have enough people or if they do not embody certain traits. The details of these traits are left to you to decide, based on what works best for your saga, but you might start with traits of the animals in the Veil or traits based on the titles of the magi on the council.
And once repaired, its vulnerability (power VII) is non-Hermetic as well.
EDIT: An important detail of many powers of the bell is, that with ArM5 rules they would warp participants of the activation ritual or wearers of a diadem with continuous effects. Such warping would have destroyed Calebais in a decade or so. It is hence likely, that the makers of the bell found a way around it - e. g. by exploiting its alignment to a covenant.
Integrating their discovery into ArM5 Hermetic magic would bring the player characters quite some fame.
I have a similar problem, but my players haven't gotten to it yet. In my case the PCs are two demon-touched magi, however, so I plan on making it an Infernal artifact, with the power to reveal demons, but also to aid in summoning them. In my saga, the covenant literally did fall due to Infernal machinations that stoked its pride and internal strife, which had to do with the bell being used to summon demons. This also gives me the opportunity to spice-up the undead and covenant with Infernal powers and such.
I have noticed there is no penetration listed for the Bell's effects. If you want to make this a valuable artefact make it penetration either very high or absolute, the ability to detect all intruders in an area even if they have high magic resistance would be very useful.
Make it bypass magic resistance. The effect simply works when a valid target is present magic resistance or no. For a real kicker make it able to detect demons too.
This would make the bell magically interesting because it is able to bypass some limitations on hermetic magic but also make it dangerous to possess because other magi would be wary of whoever possessed an item with so dangerous a quality.