Provencal Redux: the County of Gevaudan

Gevaudan Detail (Provencal)
Gevaudan Detail (Provencal)

Browsing through my copy of Mythic Locations, I noticed that Mark Shirley’s Chapter 11: The Wolf’s Court is set in the Gevaudan region of Provencal. The area suggested as the default location is centred on the bishop ruled town of Mendes in the east of the region and includes the southeastern portion of the Massif Central and the forested gorge of Tarn River.

The chapter is a great piece in it’s own right due to the anachronistic local legends (see the Beast of Gevaudan, made famous by the 2001 French film, Le Pacte des loups or “The Brotherhood of the Wolf”) but I’m mostly thankful it has drawn my attention to the area from a meta-game perspective.

So Gevaudan is a great spot to develop for a number of reasons, but I’ll admit my interest is mainly because there’s nothing much detailed for this area in the official supplement, Faith and Flame.

Although not intentional, the gazetteer component of the Provencal Tribunal supplement does not detail this fringe area much as not only does the Massif Central region of Mythic Europe fall on the border of Normandy and Provencal, but the hills are found at the edge of the eastern Toulousain, the northeast of the Narbonnais region and over the Rhone from my Arelat section.

As such, none of us (CJ, Ben and I respectively) detailed the area specifically- perhaps this could be seen as an oversight, but I’d like to think of the lack of official development as an opportunity to explore some ideas prompted by Mark’s piece and would propose the region as an excellent place for a player character covenant.

It’s liminal territory and that’s always a good place for stories to start…

Several factors make it an interesting default covenant location to consider:

1) There is a forest. There are hills. There are most likely faeries (or at least supernatural creatures). The basic “castle-on-the-hill-by-the-faerie-wood” covenant trope (see ArM5 Covenants, page 7) is therefore satisfied ie. the area provides a vanilla if somewhat unimaginative covenant start in one of the heartland areas of Mythic Europe, as represented by the “Spring in the Woods” Covenant Situation presented on page 26 or ArM5 Covenants. That’s OK, one of the explicit design goals for Provencal was to make it “vanilla” in the sense that it represented the default Hermetic culture of the ArM5 corebook to allow for ease of play, particularly by new Troupes of players (see Timothy Ferguson’s related post on the value of vanilla settings).

2) The somewhat isolated area has no established Hermetic presence – the closest “official” covenant is the Normandy covenant of Atsingani, a vassal of the Tremere led Great Liege, Montverte (see page 76-78, The Lion and the Lily) that wanders the lands to the northwest. The region is also at the fringes of the influence of the Coenobium based along the Rhone in Arelat. This makes it far enough away to escape notice of established Normandy or Provencal factions for long enough for the characters to establish a Spring covenant with it’s own history and personalities without unnecessary interruption by rivals. If required, the characters of a newly settled covenant in Gevaudan can ignore much of the material regarding the contentious upcoming Provencal Tribunal Meeting of 1221, greatly simplifying the initial years of play – the Redcaps of the Coenobium just don’t start showing up until a few years into the Saga.

Alternatively, if the Troupe want to incorporate more established Hermetic elements, a Coenobium sponsored chapter house in the region or a Tremere led expedition (perhaps as a replacement to the ill-fated Lariander of ArM3 Covenants) may make a good backstory for a motley collection of young magi seeking to find their own way in the world. These options provide developed links to powerful allies and the potential to become embroiled in more political stories from an earlier stage.

3) Similarly, locating away from powerful nobles or the influence of the Church allows as much or as little specific Provencal or general Hermetic culture to be introduced as the Storyguide desires, much like the function originally served by the Val du Bosque of ArM3, but without the obligatory interruption of the Albigensian Crusade (although perhaps accomodating some of the fallout of the recent war). The local lord, the Bishop of Mendes can be developed in time as an ally or perhaps as a worthy antagonist using the ideas presented for Bishop Orris in the Antagonists supplement.

4) The woods and hills provide an easy means to introduce mundane, Faerie and Magic creatures familiar to most players from European folklore and medieval stories. As Sara Maitland notes in her book “Gossip from the Forest”, the majority of European fairy stories are set in or involve a forest, so a default forest location allows the Troupe to draw upon existing motifs from the core canon with relative ease compared to the more peripheral Tribunals such as Thebes or the Levant.

It’s too late in the month for me to detail a starting covenant for a November NaGaDeMon style project (see Timothy’s Covenant of Sabrina’s Rest project from last year as an example) and I don’t have the time to flesh this concept out further but I think it’s a worthwhile addition to the Provencal supplementary material I’ve already collected.

Addit: although terribly anachronistic, the Beast of Gevaudan legend (see this short film) and the Le Pact des Loups fantasy film are so laden with Story Seeds and ideas that could be readily adapted to ArM5 that I’ll probably attempt writing some material on it.