Category Archives: design notes

I am (the) Mimir…

Mimir's Head
The Head of Mimir

“Odin took the head of Mímir, embalmed it with herbs so that it would not rot, and spoke charms over it, which gave it the power to speak to him and reveal to him secrets…”

Sounds like a particularly gruesome fate eh?

Except of course in ArM5 terms Mimir is technically a Jotun (an elder Daimon, effectively the Norse equivalent of a Titan) and Odin is the leader of the Faerie Gods of the Norse that claimed victory over the Giants in their cultural equivalent of the first Titanomachy.

Odin didn’t behead Mimir, that was due to an altercation between during the Æsir-Vanir War, but regardless of the precipitant one wonders whether this passage suggests Odin has effectively made a pact with the elder Daimon, drawing on his knowledge and advice by carrying around his head to consult when needed. After all an elder Jotun of wisdom and rune magic might have something useful to add on occasion…

Perhaps the embalming process and muttered charms Odin employs is meant as a mystical metaphor for an imprisonment similar to the other Jotun? Or Odin formed some sort of pact with Mimir – unlikely a formal Muspelli / Jotun patron relationship but perhaps something more akin to a Spirit Votary, allowing Odin as a Faerie to draw upon Mimir’s Magic Might and powers?

Variant Muspelli: Mimir as a Jotun Patron

Mark Shirley has suggested Mimir as a potential “benign” Muspelli patron in a 2015 forum thread quoted below, an idea he rejected originally for the Muspelli section of Rival Magic apparently, but the concept crops up again in the aftermath section of his Dies Irae section as a potential sponsor for vitkir and other rune magicians.

If I were to pick another benign patron I would go for Mimir.

He is Urdur’s brother and the Jotun who taught the runes to Odin. He is a patron of wisdom and magic. His gandur would be a severed head (or the carving of one), representing his fate after the Aesir-Vanir war.

There are some (obscure) sources which make him the father of the dwarfs, so the initiatory Major Flaw could be Dwarf. This would make the Etin-Mod all the more surprising! The dwarfs are the seven primal smiths of the Norse creation epic, and Mimir would be all about creative forces as well as wisdom.

Mimir‘s reasons for pursuing Ragnarok could be the same as his sister’s — it is fated. However, Mimir is concerning himself with the creation of a refuge (Hoddmimis holt) that will outlast the Twilight of the Gods, and he is responsible for building a new world once the destruction has taken place. His Muspelli would be interested in choosing who is worthy to survive.

So then Favored powers for a Muspelli of Mimir would perhaps then include Spadomur, Threads of Fate and Premonitions Virtues similar to his sister Urdur, but with say Sjonhverfing replacing Entrancement.

The proposed gandur form makes sense, although the Etin-mod of a muspelli serving Mimir may be less monstrous in appearance than most, although certainly remain Giant sized and powerful enough to inspire awe in a mundane human..

Dies Irae suggests that post the Second Titanomachy / Ragnarok, either “benign” Jotun sibling could also be appropriate as a patron for a vitkir so a Muspelli of Mimir may wish to forgo the two Major Supernatural Abilities usually granted from its patron’s allies in return for being able to use Rune Magic.

Alternatively, for a more high powered hedge magic Saga, a Muspelli could initiate into Rune Magic following their Muspelli initiation or an ambitious vitkir pledge himself fully to Mimir as a Jotun patron as a further intitiation or an advanced Mystery Script resembling Odin’s sacrifice…

Beyond the Horizon: Thoughts on Mediterranean Robinsonades

In a recent post over on Games from Folktales, Timothy commented on the concept of “Robinsonades” in terms of their story potential as a starting point for an Ars Magica Saga. Alluding to Shakespeare’s The Tempest as a potential source of inspiration, he broadly defines the concept in his first paragraph:

A Robinsonade is a type of story that takes its name from Robinson Crusoe. In the structure of the story a person from a technologically superior area is stranded in an area where they have limited societal support.

Read “magically adept” for “technologically superior” by invoking Clarke’s 3rd Law and he argues that starting a covenant from a shipwrecked group of magi and their surviving grogs is a potential Robinsonade beginning to a Saga. Let’s not get into the whys and hows of a group of magi travelling by ship and managing to get shipwrecked – that’s a whole different post or two – and take a moment to concentrate on the where, at least in terms of the Mediterranean, potentially linking into my Mythic Genoa concepts.

The Areas of the Meditteranean Out of Sight of Land.jpg
Areas Out of Sight of Land (from The Corrupting Sea)

The above image is a photograph from a very useful book about Mediterranean History (The Corrupting Sea, Peregrine Horden and Nicholas Purcell, Peregrine 2000) that discusses the Meditteranean as a maritime continent or “extended archipelago” of ports and settlements along the coasts linked by a common culture. The map demonstrates those areas “out of sight of land”, the “deeps” of the ocean beyond the horizon which in this instance equates to the line of demarcation between where an individual on a ship at sea can still see land features including mountains and where the observer sees only an unbroken circle of water.

I’d like to explore these so-called featureless “deeps” later, but in his original post Timothy suggests that Sagas set on islands out of sight of a passing ship may make a good example of a Robinsonade. Let’s use then this map as a starting point for discussion.

Note: the image above presumably details what those on board a ship can see – unless an observer is standing on a high peak, their horizon at any coastal point is limited to mere 3 miles. An observer on the deck of a ship can similarly only see human sized objects at sea level 3 miles away, which according to this calculator extends for those in the crow’s nest or the top of the mast of most contemporary ships to about 10 miles at most in clear weather during daylight. This is only the top of the landmark however, the rest of the landmass is hidden behind the horizon. So it’s entirely possible to miss another ship or a beacon fire on the beach unless the smoke rises as a column or you have a lookout positioned up the mast. Also one ship may be able to see another’s mast from miles off while remaining undetected by the other crew at deck level or be completely hidden from castaways gazing out from the where they have waded into the waves…

Height above sea level, for both the observer AND the object is the key.

  • sea level: 3 miles
  • 30 feet: 7 miles
  • 50 feet:  9 miles

If the top of the object and the observer are elevated, then the distance increases.

Historically, particularly in ancient times when oared galleys were the primary means of maritime transport, but also in medieval times of sail, most ships sailed within sight of the coast – within a few miles along the plains and further out to sea for coasts rocky headlands or mountainous coasts. To venture beyond this horizon was a concept that generated significant dread and had associated superstitions. Ships did sometimes cross the wider expanses with the aid of astrological navigation (itself a great topic) but much more rarely, so the borders on the map potentially represent the furthermost limit a ship would readily sail.

Western “Deeps”

Although there’s no scale to the overall map (and technically the line varies by a few miles depending on the height of the observer if they’re at the top of the mast of the ship), it’s interesting to me for several reasons, but in response to Timothy’s post, let’s briefly deal with whether this map helps with the hypothesis that there are islands out of sight of passing ships traversing the common coastal routes of the Mediterranean and leave out those few intrepid ships and crews that cross the wider open expanses for now.

He mentions the Scilly Isles, the Channel Isles and the Hebrides, which are all part of more northern Tribunals, and does not mention the Aegean islands possibly because of the busy sea traffic in the Theban Tribunal. So let’s deal with the two Mediterranean suggestions: the islands off Sicily  (Aeolian, Ustica, Aegadian, Pelagian) and the smaller islands between Spain and the Balearics.

Example #1: the Balearic Islands?

Let’s deal with the Balearics area first.

The initial map indicates that the Balearics, given their mountainous nature, are readily seen by ships sailing eastwards from the port of Valencia and the small islets off the coasts of the three main islands are well within the 10 mile diameter of a passing ship (blue circles on the map below) if not the 3 mile radius of being seen from the coast. So it’s really a question of whether the smaller island of Formentera (highest point 390 feet) south of Ibiza and the islets of the Cabrera Archipelago (highest point 560 feet) south of Majorca  are easily visible.

Both lie within 10 miles of their nearby major islands, so their landward coasts are readily visible from a ship sailing within sight of the main coast and their peaks are easily seen from even further out (24 miles and 29 miles respectively, green circles on the map).

Horizons relevant to the lesser Balearic Islands

It’s unclear whether ships passed to the north or south of the Balearics (Edit: checking another reference, they probably did pass to the south due to the prevailing winds and currents of the western Mediterranean), but assuming they did round the southern coastline, Formontera with it’s overall flatter relief to the west and elevation to the east would be passed frequently. On the other hand, the rocky seaward side of Cabrera might be relatively hidden in the shadow of its highest central elevation from most passing ships hugging the Majorcan coastline to the north and therefore might be a potential Robinsonade style covenant location.

Cabrera Archipelago: a Robinsonade Saga location?

To be continued…

Fennmar: Innsmouth Hinterland

So this is the concept drafting for the “Innsmouth Hinterland” in the Fennmar area on my whiteboard, consisting of a web article “Where is H.P. Lovecraft’s Innsmouth” used to generate the Chaosium Escape from Innsmouth supplement “Lovecraft Country” map below, an annotated map of Innsmouth from DeviantArt and sketchings on a blow up section of the Immoren map from the IKRPG Corebook.


“Lovecraft Country” (annotated)

Having a look at the various maps, Fennmar seems a logical place to situate Innsmouth and it’s “Lovecraft Country” surrounds (see IKRPG2, page 69 for the following excerpt from the Duchy of Southpoint section): “The Fenn Marsh, one of the largest natural wetlands in Cygnar, surrounds this area, and it is a major barrier to land traffic to the port city of Mercir. All attempts to connect Mercir by road or rail have met with mixed and impermanent results, although local nobles insist ingenuity can overcome these travails. Amid this marsh live a large number of gatormen as well as several prominent trollkin kriels. At present, most who need to travel past this desolate region prefer to do so by ship or to cross the northern interior by road through Highgate.

The area is well within Cygnar, but away from the front lines and the ongoing war and it’s steamjacks and other industrial elements – a perfect backwater to place Mythos elements. The industrial port city of Mercir provides a clear correlate with Arkham or perhaps even elements of Boston, with Clocker’s Cove to the north standing in for Newburyport and the Great Cygnaran Observatory reached by steamboat from the south making a serviceable meta-game substitute for Miskatonic University and a potential repository of greater Mythos related lore and adventure hooks in the form of missions from scholars…

Provencal Tribunal Summary for Project Redcap updated

Now that Faith and Flame has been out for a few weeks, I’ve had a chance to start to update the Provencal entry on the Project Redcap wiki on the page entitled: Which Tribunal to Choose? – The Provencal Tribunal.

Provencal Tribunal Summary (Atlas Forums)

This very useful page on the wiki briefly summarises the various Tribunals from a play potential perspective, using where possible a template developed back about a year ago now. The idea grew out of a prolonged discussion thread on the Atlas Games Forums about Tribunal Books, which now provides (incomplete) summaries of the various regions of Mythic Europe (and beyond) that a Saga could potentially be set.

One of the comments that led the discussion was the perception that all the existing Tribunal books at that time had some unusual quirk or cultural aspect that dominated the Tribunal and the way magi interacted. During the writing of Faith and Flame we intentionally tried to keep Provencal “vanilla” ie. as close to the default Hermetic society portrayed in the ArM5 corebook.

This concept is briefly outlined in broad terms in the insert on page 22 of Faith and Flame, “A Tribunal for Every Magus?”. The philosophy behind this was to provide a “default” setting, which would therefore make it easy to start a beginning Saga and to allow ideas and material from supplements from previous editions (particularly ArM2) to be utilized with only minor need for conversion (albeit with a 23 year jump in timeline due tot he different canonical starting dates between editions).

By updating the page I hope that the information provided will prove useful for Troupes considering starting a new Saga and make choosing Provencal as their initial setting more likely.

Design Notes: Mythic Groot?

Design Notes for Mythic Groot

Inspiration strikes in the strangest ways.

As I’m in between official writing projects at the moment, I’ve decided to try a few different exercises to work on the technical aspects of ArM5 writing (aka “grogging” would be the appropriate word perhaps here) that I feel I need to develop more. This basically means practice.

The skill I think needs the most work is stat blocks – when it comes to a choice of “crunch” (mechanics), I’ll take “fluff” any day… partly because I think there are enough mechanics and sub systems already but mainly to avoid stat blocks.

So to make this more fun, I’ve  decided to undertake a more whimsical project – I’m intending to interpret two of popular culture’s more recent misfits, Rocket and Groot, in ArM5 terms, but not just as a straight conversion, I want to represent this oddball pair in the Mythic Europe paradigm as characters that could be used in a default Saga.

I’ve started with Groot, mainly because I’ve been interested in the concept of Loamwalkers and their relationship to the Redcaps of The Broken Branches but also because I believe I can use the Elementals from Realms of Power: Magic as a starting point and then deconstruct and carve out a “Herbam Quasi-Elemental” from it, literally whittling out the Character Guide / Description from the rough block. He’s basically a lumbering giant made of bark and wood, with powers relating to changing parts of his form through growth and twisting, so I think I can replicate those elements readily enough with existing Powers and creative use of the Hibernian warrior feats or clesrada introduced in The Contested Isle (see pages 102-104) while still remaining within the ArM5 paradigm.

My initial design notes for Groot, sketched onto a promotional graphic can be found in the annotated image above, and the completed block will be uploaded shortly.

As to Rocket, a major stumbling block is that raccoons are not native to Mythic Europe (although have been introduced in later years apparently) and the morphologically similar raccoon dog is only found in the Far East… so unless I invoke a Criamon Greco-Buddhist mystic travelling back from a pilgrimage along the Silk Road with an exotic familiar I’m seemingly out of luck.

Fortunately Timothy has given me a great suggestion for the anthropomorphic weapons master that makes great sense and links the pair into Ars canon and history nicely…

Design Notes – Sub Pontem (Provencal)

Although I contributed some ideas to the concept of Aedes Mercuriae (see Dois…?), and pitched the unrecognised “pirate covenant” of Fraxinetum Redux, I really created only one major covenant to Faith and Flame: the Provencal Tribunal that ended up in the final supplement.

This was the multi-site Jerbiton and Mercere led covenant know as Coenobium Rhodanien or more commonly, just “The Coenobium”.

<cue moody threatening music>

The Pont St Benezet in a slightly later age

Continue reading Design Notes – Sub Pontem (Provencal)