Category Archives: language

Material for use with Andalusian Magi

The Castle of Cazorla in Andalusia
The Castle of Cazorla in Andalusia

So while digging through my old material I came across a partially completed article on various concepts useful for playing Andalusian Magi.

I’d long lamented that much maligned ArM3 Tribunals of Hermes: Iberia contained a woefully inadequate amount on Granda and in truth basically no material on Islamic Hermetic Magi. I therefore decided to address this but never finished the piece.

Seemed a shame to waste such good ideas and given there appears to be no chance of a revised Iberian Tribunal anytime soon, I may as well dust them off and showcase them here for general use.

I’ve added the following material to the site already, but more will follow:

Some of the ideas and concepts may well be useful for Sagas set in the Mythic Levant or the Mythic Middle East and may provide interesting material for opponents or allies of characters located in the nearby Provencal Tribunal. The original ideas for some of the more developed concepts appeared in my old Sub Rosa article “Dar al-Nujum Covenant”, the complete text of which is now hosted on this site.


#4 The Magic that is Good Dentistry

Golden Lickstones? (Photo credit: Portable Antiquities Store)
Golden Lickstones? (Photo credit: Portable Antiquities Store)

My father is a dentist and I had terrible teeth when I was younger (extractions, plates, braces, root canal etc etc), so believe me when I say I know the value of good dentistry!

It’s something I never thought I’d find useful in terms of RPG inspiration – until now. The more I think about, the more potential enchanted dental prostheses have. Odd but intriguing.

ArM4 Sanctuary of Ice (The Greater Alps Tribunal), page 20 introduced the concept of lickstones, small concealable objects that can be readily concealed within the mouth of a Redcap:

…The least conspicuous Whitlams are called lickstones; small metal or opal plates that fasten magically to the palate, and hide beneath a layer of illusion. Initially designed for dealing with faeries, which can see magical objects and are sometimes attracted to them, the stones are also used in situations where it is possible the Redcap will be imprisoned. The only serious defect with lickstones is that they become inactive on holy ground. This design feature was included to ensure that no redcap forgets he is wearing one, and takes Communion with it still in his mouth. Since this accident is yet to occur, no one is sure what the result would be…

The image on the right is from a website of odd antiques and although anachronistic (the golden dental plate is apparently circa 1850), I think it gives a good impression of a full palate shaped lickstone might look like.

See here for details of lickstones and other enhanced dental options for Redcaps.

Beyond the Lingua Franca

I’ve always been interested in languages and it’s one of the aspects I enjoy researching for the Ars Magica projects I’ve worked on – with Mark Shirley I worked on the languages appendix in The Cradle and the Crescent (essentially a revision of the original section in Blood & Sand), I spent some time on the Iberian dialects for Marko’s Light of Andorra web-based saga, and I’ve been responsible for the language sections in the two yet-to-be-announced ArM5 projects I’m still working on. The “fluff” of languages can provide strong thematic flavour, but the “crunch” inherent to the current system can be counterproductive.

The main problem with languages for me in ArM5 is that reflecting the complexity of medieval dialects within the main language groups of an area (particularly the “Spanish” group) is difficult with the standard Ability (specialisation) format and rules listed in the corebook and expanded upon by example initially in Guardians of the Forest and in later supplements. It might be interesting to note that speakers of Catalan and Occitan can mutually understand each other well enough but that Castilian speakers or Aragonese speakers have more trouble and so on but in-game subtleties in differences of communication do not necessarily create more interesting stories. It comes down to a balance between simulation accuracy and playability – there comes a point where extra granularity in languages results only in Language Abilities acting as an XP sink without enhancing play. The once real historical role of a polyglot medieval interpreter as intermediary is difficult to realise mechanically, although the Linguist Virtue compensates somewhat for the otherwise enormous XP expenditure required. The role seems difficult to justify given that simple Hermetic magic, a Minor Virtue such as Faerie Speech or Gift of Tongues and/or a minor enchanted item can achieve the Mythic Europe equivalent of Star Trek’s “universal translator” or the Babel fish of Hich Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy fame.

Exceptions to this lack of incentive to invest XP in languages include the concept of lost magical languages such as the Pictish used for the magic of the Gruagach (and perhaps other similar hedge traditions), the role of non-Latin classical languages such as Greek or Arabic to cast Hermetic magic as proposed in The Sundered Eagle or Ancient Magic and/or the use of the Exotic Casting Minor Virtue by Ex Miscellanea wizards using their vernacular tongue for elements of their Hermetic casting to confuse their opponents counter-spell defenses.

In spite of (or perhaps because of) this opinion, I’ve added language sections to the Mythic Genoa and Mythic Levant sections respectively here and here. The first includes some of the rare local dialects and trade tongues in use on or around the Tyrrhenian Sea, the latter covers both the tongues of the Crusader factions and the Levantine locals.

As the Iberian Tribunal Book is unlikely to be revised anytime soon, I’ll post my reconstructed concepts of Iberian languages another time, once I find where I’ve stored them over on the Light of Andorra Saga sub-forum on the Atlas Games website.