Redcap Concepts by Tribunal #1 – Stonehenge

The ArM4 supplement Heirs to Merlin, by David Chart, briefly details five male Stonehenge Redcaps (Jocelin, Percival, Great William, Little William and Edgar) based out of the so-called Mercer House near Coventry, a location that is geographically central (pages 114-115).

Although no longer canonical for fifth edition, the supplement contains no game statistics and the material within can be readily adapted to ArM5 (or potentially adapted to a different game system and used as background setting material).

The Mercer House and Redcaps mentioned in Heirs to Merlin differ somewhat from the later ArM5 versions (for details see Houses of Hermes: True Lineages, pages 82-88). These differences may be readily developed however and may create interesting stories.

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London Bridge Covenant

“Old London Bridge in 1745″ by Joseph Josiah Dodd

Almost a year to the day since Timothy posted about this on his blog, and I’ve decided there might be something more in this than just idle speculation…

The various images I’ve found are certainly inspiring. Who knows, perhaps I can work up a sample covenant set upon London Bridge over the course of the year (or perhaps as my hopefully more successful upcoming November’s NaGaDeMon challenge)?

As I’m Australian, I don’t have local knowledge (I’ve stayed in London for a week once many years ago now), but I’ve dug up some interesting tidbits readily enough. Apart from the existence of a chapel on the bridge as Timothy noted (actually quite common to most significant medieval bridges), I’ve collected some  other really interesting aspects to the medieval bridge, three in particular which cry out for Hermetic explanation or seem to generate stories:

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Setting the Limits, the Pomoerium as Prototype of the Aegis?

I was reading something Timothy wrote a while back recently about stumbling across interesting ideas while researching another concept and thought I’d share a recent example. I have to frankly admit to that ready access to Wikipedia is a source of almost constant distraction in this regard, but even when I used to read encyclopedias when I was younger, I was constantly getting lost in the cross-references, often finding them more interesting than the entry dealing with my my original enquiry. It’s one of the things I love most about research, the serendipitous discover of unknown gems, like stumbling upon a freshly minted coin in the street.

As background, I’m currently trying to work up a Mystery cult involving tree worship, which led from considering nonhuman loamwalkers as potential leaders a Mystery cult within the Redcaps, which in turn was triggered by a single sentence within the Story Seed: “The Trees Conspire Against Us” in Realms of Power: Magic relating to the Redcap group known as the Broken Branches. All this is therefore a legitimate extension of my Redcap project, combined with my clear interest in hedge magic, right?

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#6 Birds of a Feather

Feather Parts (Wikimedia Commons)

I’ve been interested in falconry for a while now, although given it’s really more of a lifestyle or art than a mere hobby and it’s virtually impossible practice while technically legal in Australia, my chances of flying any form of raptor unfortunately approaches very close to zero…

This interest helped me write the short Arab Falconry Insert for The Cradle and the Crescent (extrapolating somewhat from the ideas presented in Lords of Men), something I wish I could have expanded on if we’d had words, but regardless of any regrets, the research for that short section was a whole lot of fun and I collected a surplus of ideas and reference material that I knew I’d end up using at some stage.

As further background, the concept of the Milvi Antiquiti, the group of Redcaps that transform into raptors to deliver their messages, has always been a fascinating one to me. The concept however creates an essential problem for the standard Redcap build – what do the Redcaps that can shapeshift into kites using non-Hermetic magic (the Skinchanger Virtue or similar inherent magical powers from Blood of Heroes or hedge magic effects) use for magic items? Just using the available spell levels of enchantment for transformation magic seems inflexible, even at the price of assigning a Minor Virtue to account for the shapeshifting role.

Sure, there are some ideas in the ArM5 corebook that were later expanded on in the Bjornaer section of Houses of Hermes: Mystery Cults for dealing with magic items that shift with their wearer or are usable in animal form, but the focus was not really on items useful to Redcaps IMO. I’d therefore started started doodling around with developing the Lady of Doves, a Mythic Companion Redcap concept themed around doves based on some hedge magic ideas of Timothy’s from an upcoming supplement, and the various magical avian accessories grew organically out of that.

The 30 Redcap Magic Items NaGaDeMon attempt gave me a reason to develop these further, although I hadn’t quite worked out what I was trying to achieve with the concepts – I realise now that more than just providing a “shopping list” for Redcap characters I wanted to push the boundaries of the idea of Redcap equipment beyond the standard magic cloak / magic food preparation device / magic  travel device combination that seems to have become a default.

I think these avian items go some way towards achieving this, but I haven’t stopped there and have some wilder ideas still to come…

The Home of Aeolus

aeolian-islands-old-mapI’ve added a short section on the Aeolian Islands to a sub-section of the Mythic Genoa pages, “The Tyrrhenian Sea”.

Written in the style of a geography section from a Tribunal book, it includes some gazetteer details of the various islands with ideas for linking them into ArM5 Sagas.

The most immediately apparent link is perhaps with “Fortunata’s Island of Bound Spirits” in Legends of Hermes, but several of the volcanic islands may provide useful bases for “The Burning City” concepts presented in Hermetic Projects.

I’d originally planned to detail Corsica and Sardinia, the Tuscan Archipelago and other Tyrrhenian sites in a similar fashion, but my aim is not to write a Tyrrhenian Sea Chapter of a revised Rome Tribunal Book, just to provide material to aid in a Genoa centred Saga or to support stories involving the Genoese.

The concept of a novel “Tyrrhenian Tribunal” based around a collection of coastal and shipboard covenants is appealing however – the definition of Tribunal being 12 magi across 4 covenants or something similar… maybe I’ll delve into this further in future.


Inklewriter as a Tool for Ars Fiction?

So I’m in Paris… on vacation. Which means I’m reading a lot of books (and rereading PDF versions of my collection of ArM5 products, including the recently released in PDF format, Against the Dark) , mainly via my Kindle app on my iPad Mini (saves on luggage weight definitely).  In addition, I’ve been stumbling my way through two old favourites, the first  two books of Steve Jackson’s Sorcery! Fighting Fantasy gamebooks, except this time around they’ve been reinvented as by Inkle apps with graphics, an interactive map and some basic animation. The whole presentation gives the same effect as the original books but in a smoother format.

The basic engine behind the app is Inklewriter, an online editor that allows writing, tracking and compilation of multi-path stories (without graphics and animation effects admittedly). A bookmarking system and in-built logic allows for conditional events to restrict or open up various options in the main story line depending on choices made earlier eg. the paths available become dependent on choosing a certain route earlier, obtaining a particular item or otherwise interacting with the non-linear story in a definite way. Importantly, the site includes a tutorial using the same format to clearly demonstrate how the editor works and a sample story “The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual”, a Sherlock Holmes piece that highlights the reading process. Additional optional functionality includes capacity to publish to e-Book and Kindle format but requires registration and/or a small conversion fee.

I think the format has a lot of potential, although perhaps its application to Ars Magica may seem limited at first when faced with the complexity of the ArM5 magic system and the near limitless number of options available to a beginning Hermetic magus. However, a story based around grogs, Companions (including Redcaps) and perhaps even apprentices seems very possible.

Perhaps next years’s NaGaDeMon or NaNoWriMo challenge?