Yet another take on the Schism War!

I'm starting to think about starting a new saga once things go back to normal-ish, and as always I'm happily jumping into the Diedne subplot: what are they going to be this time? What was the Schism war really about?

There are some core facts here and there that had been bouncing into my brain.

  • House Tremere started the whole Schism war in Order to save the Order.
  • That was not that much because Diedne were evil (they were quite secretive, so at best nobody really knew what they were), but because House Tremere wanted to join the whole Order into a common front against a shared enemy.
  • That Enemy needed to be powerful enough to pose a threat to the Order.
  • Probably Tremere are cold enough to assume a certain amount of losses to save the Order, and would take them into account, estimating pros and cons before starting the war.
  • Diedne were a druidic tradition, and druids believed in metempsychosis. And dying isn't that bad if you really believe that you are going to return in another reincarnation.
  • Diedne had a pagan cult nobody knows nothing about (at least I hadn't found anything browsing this forum or in raw).
  • Diedne were in good relationship with Guernicus (at least the Founders where, but if Tytali still despite Tremere half a millenium later, why wouldn't Guernicus and Diedne still be palls by the Schism War times?), Bonisagus (whom had a lot of collaboration with them and shared research right until the Schism War) and Merinita (which took many Diedne apprentices into their House as refugees after the war).
  • The pre-war Order was falling apart because of the paranoia and suspicion that grew like wildfires after the Tytali Corruption.
  • House Diedne had plenty of opportunities to defuse the tension against them, but stubbornly didn't.
  • This paranoia and suspicion could grow into untolerable levels because the Code, since it was first swore, makes explicit that scrying is a High Crime, so secrecy is dogma.
  • Oddly that clause wasn't put in place by Diedne House or Tytalus or any other of he usual schemingly prone Houses, but by Criamon.
  • And more oddly, Criamon aren't exactly written as secrecy advocates, as core said that they are happy to teach Enigmatic Wisdom to anyone dumb enough to ask, and also that they rely on the inherent confusion of their crazy ideas to keep their secrets safe.
  • Criamon also believe in some kind of reincarnation.

So what I'm starting to think is: what if the Schism war was a plan designed not just by House Tremere, understanding that the Order needed to be join together, but also by House Diedne, offering themselves as that shared enemy?

So what are your thoughts about this? Is there any place where I'm stepping way out of RAW? Where are the diedne then, two centuries later? Why are the Criamon getting into my train of thought, what do they want, what did they want to hide, do they played any role in what happened two centuries ago?

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I didn't go this far, but I did have a campaign where the Diedne escape plan was a ritual that prepared them for death and reincarnation, such that the members of House Diedne were now being reborn as Gifted children who had the impulse and opportunity to awaken to their previous powers. In fact Hugh Ex Merinita was a reborn Diedne and never did quite manage to reconnect to his past...

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I just want to point you to the Sub Rosa issue focusing on the Diedne; I believe it’s issue #13. Even if you have no interest in the multiple conflicting versions of the House presented there, it’s invaluable for the single article that compiles every fact stated about the house in every edition of the game, including many passing comments even dedicated readers may have missed.

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Note that this has been errated (https://www.atlas-games.com/arsmagica/arm5errata) - it should be Verditius instead, which makes far more sense.

Even for Criamon it would make sense that they don't want people to scry on them.
In particular they probably don't want others to learn only some of their philosophy and mysteries without the proper context - because some parts of it will sound very, very crazy if you don't know the context - and that can so very easily lead to dangerous misunderstandings.

But I agree that Verditius would care even more about keeping magical secrets secret.

As a bonus, Dies Irae provides another potential reason for the Criamon to want secrecy, with the whole 'break the tyranny of time' plan. Since time is a circle, they might have known from day dot.
But yeah, Verditius makes a lot more sense.

I'm still more concerned by the double standard of House Tytalus surviving after confirmed corruption by demons, but unconfirmed Diedne gets marched afterwards.
The thread's initial premise (that Diedne were in on it) makes that sound more likely, but I'd still need them out surviving somewhere. Even if their religion made death/sacrifice acceptable, I can't see them letting their teachings, philosophies and any initiations they may have die out.

Wouldn't the Burning Acorn Vexillation's mission need adjustment if you use this option?

The important issue here is HoH:S p.74:

The feud ended abruptly in 961 AD when Kalliste brought evidence to the Quaesitores that her mater (scilicet: Tasgilia) was amassing power through diabolism, using Guorna’s own lore to summon demons to attend to her sybaritic desires. <...> With the endorsement and support of House Guernicus, Kalliste replaced Tasgillia, becoming the fifth Prima of House Tytalus, despite never winning that privilege in the time-honored manner of the house.

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Yes it is, 13th number for the 13th House. I do have it and love it, not because of the different takes on the House, but because of that fact summary. Any chance to go back to it is welcomed!

Far more sense indeed. Well, there it goes my "Criamon were crazy evil schemers since day one!" plot. And comes the "Verditius' greed almost caused the Order to implode", but that's not so much fun.

I would agree, but RAW is pretty clear that their method to keep their secrets safe is based only on their inherent confuse nature, specially to outsiders. And, to be honest, who wouldn't run if a Criamon comes trying to share his philosophy?

Well, it might (because they might know the truth, and so their goal would need to be other than that), but probably no. The best way to hide and keep a lie is to turn it into truth. Probably all who were into the gambit keep it to themselves (or, even better, agreed to die during the war for the greater good), which also would keep House Diedne's sacrifice usefulness long after their sacrifice (after all Damhan-Allaidh still make british magi look over their shoulder centuries after his death) (if he died for good, anyway).

Burning Acorn Vexillation wouldn't work as a reminder of an enemy which might return (and so as a tool to keep the Order grouped) if they were blinking and giggling every time they mention their purpose because they know it's a lie.

Or given how Tremere like to manage things, maybe there is another Vexillation who is in charge to keep the secret. Probably not the same one anyway.

That's why I keep thinking what their cult was about. Because if they had a purpose and completed it, maybe they just were ok to die, and they are gone for good.

They might just had moved anywhere else, or planted the seed for later reincarnations, but that doesn't seem like a nice solution to me. If they moved away you need to figure out where and why nobody can find them (I toyed with the idea of a Regio replicating the full Mythic Europe, with them in charge of it, but I'm not liking it at all). If they reincarnated I doubt it is to rebuild the House or take revenge, except if maybe the whole Idea was not a war but a series of wars: if the Order goes again sideways and starts crumbling down, then maybe House Diedne might return to unite it agaist them again.

So the first campaign arc would be: The Order faces a big internal crisis, so House Diedne reappears and strikes back, seeming like trying to take advantage of the crisis, but actually trying to fix it by dying all over again.

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One possibility is to use an initiatory method and have mundanes keep their secrets- it seems weak, but (especially if the magi are going to reincarnate) doable, since the Order tends to overlook mundanes. A score of mundanes with an initiatory tradition and a small library of books hidden away however can easily restart the house.

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Some fascinating ideas bouncing around here.

I agree that there would be a reason underlying their actions. Toolkit questions; what do you want, and what will you do to get it?

There could always be the possibility that, rather than dying to accomplish something, they died to prevent something worse than the Schism War? Possibly something that they and/or the Criamon saw coming? This needn’t be a vision of the future as such, maybe a philosophical realisation. For example, the conclusion that the Order, like any organisation built by humans, will likely weaken and eventually fail, and its potential be forever lost. The foreseen way to save something might be to pre-emptiively reincarnate as a decentralised anarchy; a theoretically perfect non-organisation, likely achievable only through advanced (magickal?) mutual understanding? Of course, all invested in the status quo would be immediately opposed to such an idea, which could easily be interpreted as scheming to undermine or destroy the Order. Should the Tremere learn of such an idea, whether or not the Diedne had decided to carry it out, how would they react?

Re: Criamon secrecy, there is always the angle that ‘sometimes a little knowledge is a dangerous thing’; that some of their knowledge is hazardous to share, but they are happy to teach unrelated aspects both out of a genuine desire to share wisdom and as a convincing smokescreen for the few things they feel a need to conceal.

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The problem is that the order is doomed to fail as of 1220 AD, and has been designed that way since 3rd edition- with dominion power emanating from ever increasingly more powerful and significant cities. So if their goal was to make the order eternal they failed. They may have given it a few more centuries of life, but it doesn't seem worth the sacrifice. Now if they foresaw the death of the order and "lost" the wizard war in order to go into hiding and await the destruction of the order before re-emerging...

Well, they might not have failed, if something was actually gained from the Schism War.

There is another thought rolling inside my mind lately: sometimes it is assumed that hermetic society (and history) happens out of sight on the borders of mundane society (and history). I had always wanted the magical battles of these Order wide wars against Dahman-Allaidh first and then against House Diedne to be world-tearing events. I mean, Battle of the False Sun, Wounded Glen, I want these names to resonate also in mundane society, not to place them far from any mundane eyes where nobody was bothered.

But I'm starting to think that at some points in Hermetic History these wars have had quite an impact in mundane society.

First, Dahman-Allaidh was fought before the normans invaded Britain. The invasion could had been easier on a magically devastated kingdom, and a couple of generations later the new ruling invaders would remember nothing about the Spider War.

And then history gives sometimes some opportunities: Cynan ap Hywel was king of Gwynedd right before the Schism War, and almost nothing is recorded about his reign, his death or why Aeddan ap Blegywryd, out of the line of succession, became king after him.

Well, a full scale magical war around The Nameless Covenant and the other Diedne outposts in Walles might be the reason.

Diedne were quite fond of nature indeed, and might frown upon the advance of the Dominion. Maybe they noticed that after Dahman-Allaidh and the Normans' invasion they noticed an improvement in the wilderness and magical auras.

Then the Schism War could had been a gambit to reinforce them. Or a test.

Or, going a step further, maybe it was just a test. Maybe these who planned it concluded that the test was ok, but that the destruction required to devastate the whole continent was something that couldn't be done at the time because the Order was too small to endure it. And then maybe they decided to give the order a couple centuries to forget and grow, and arranged the return of House Diedne and the Second Schism War for the time the Order population was, I don't know, over 1200 magi?

IMO, @Ouroboros, I think you are casting the war in far too positive a light.

what if the Schism war was a plan designed not just by House Tremere, understanding that the Order needed to be join together, but also by House Diedne, offering themselves as that shared enemy?

Perhaps I'm reading you too literally, but no one willinlyg offers themselves up as a sacrificial lamb to the slaughter. People fight wars because (1) diplomatic means have failed, (2) the enemy has something they want, (3) genocide.

In 3rd edition, it was (2) and (3) as the Ars-oWoD connection was that the Tremere wanted Diedne secrets for immortality. In 5e, we got (3). I really don't see how you're changing anything, really, in terms of what the players will experience at the table.

If you want to cast it in a new light, then the Tremere should start the war to steal Deidne Mystery Cult secrets.

But that is because most people don't want to die. Now, if you get reincarnation (which druids believed in) to work, being the sacrificial lamb maybe isn't such a bad idea, specially if you believe in something higher, like they did.

I can see where you're going, but it comes across as far too altruistic and unrealistic.

How very jesus-like.

if you want to go at the with the "save magic" angle you could have the diedne orchestrate their own reincarnation as the holy-magi, (noone would expect that). Have them try to undermine the church from within in order to damage the divine auras and thus save magic auras from being subsumed or destroyed.

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I don't see a strategy consisting on prunning half of the Order and ideally half of Europe at World Wars' level very altruistic or jesus-like, to be honest!

Well, Ovarwa would definetively expect it; he proposed Diedne picking up Holy Magic and hiding inside he Church almost 4 years ago,

But for me to be honest to have a group of a hundred (or many hundreds) of sorcerers infiltrated into any organisation seems wrong.

I usually play the Church to be a major force against the Order. With The Order being the big magical bully in Mythic Europe it is already hard enough to have Order-threatening stuff to throw to my players, and I like to keep as many availiable resources as I can. Grouping two big troubles into one? That cut my arsenal almost by half! I don't like it at all.

Diedne is a monstrosity that developed in vagueries over various editions- the first version were violently anti-christian druids who had been turned on by the order as the order was christian and Diedne was see as being maybe infernal. then when availability of research showed that most druids actually joined the church historically then Diedne betrayed her fellow druids as well in the pursuit of power. At this point Diedne is little more than a generic boogeyman vaguely connected to Druidism. Personally I don't see Diedne joining with anyone, considering the whole root of the conflict was that they weren't readily cooperating with the Order, who were their allies at the time, and of course there have always been the rumors of human sacrifice...

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