Category Archives: travel

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-meditteranean-out-of-sight-of-land
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).

balearic-robinsonades
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.

archipielago_de_cabrera
Cabrera Archipelago: a Robinsonade Saga location?

To be continued…

Mythic Africa Revealed!

Between Sand and Sea
Between Sand and Sea

So my contributor copies of Between Sand and Sea: Mythic Africa arrived this week in Oz, which was very exciting apart form the fact I haven’t had a chance to properly read through it yet…

It’s always great to see the interior artwork finally, there’s some really great pieces that capture the flavour of the region – as a line author we get to suggest scenes for the artists but we usually don’t see the actual pictures until the final supplement.

(My copies are often delayed compared to most due to my Antipodean residential status).

I only contributed a relatively small amount to this book admittedly compared to the other authors (the Tuareg nomads, some settuten magic concepts, a few hedge wizard and werehyena ideas, the Cyrenaica and Ahaggar areas, the mundane beasts appendix).  I’m really proud of this one as I think it indicates just how far I’ve developed as a writer with the generous help of my more experienced co-authors (particularly Timothy) and how far we’ve managed to stretch the once restraining envelope of Mythic Europe…

Enjoy!

Mythic Africa Announced!

So finally, my fourth book for ArM5 is on its way (December)! I was privileged to contribute some concepts and ideas to the latest opus crafted by Ben, Mark and Timothy.

The 2nd “Not-Tribunal Book”, Between Sand and Sea, deals with North Africa… well, everything along the southern Meditteranean littoral except Egypt actually (or as Timothy would say: “Guaranteed to Contain No Egypt at No Extra Charge!”)

Although we’re all bound by NDA, I can say that this supplement is full of great material and ideas to allow your characters to explore another exotic set of locales or create characters from the lands outside the core heartland of Mythic Europe.

If you liked the potential and possibilities of exploring beyond the boundaries of Hermetic influence presented in The Cradle and the Crescent, you’ll likely not be disappointed and find hours of inspiration and enjoyment!

Oh, the cover art is shaping up to look great too…

 

Between Sand & Sea: Mythic Africa

Everyone knows Egypt, but Egypt is just one corner of Africa. Between the sand of the Great Desert and the sea of the Mediterranean lie the great cities of Marrakesh and Fes, home to merchants, scholars, and thieves. The Atlas mountains and the plains of the Tell are home to Tuareg and Berber nomads and raiders, and the ruins of Rome and Carthage still await exploration. Not all of the inhabitants of this land are human: the Blemmyae have no heads, bearing their faces on their chests, while the Panotii have ears so large that they can fly, and the isle of monkeys tolerates nothing human on its shores. Trade caravans from all cultures cross the Great Desert, but none know what lies beyond, or where the slaves brought north come from.

Beyond the Bounds of the Order

This book provides cultural and magical details for the lands of Mythic Africa west of, but not including, Egypt. From the jnun to the dark gods of old Carthage, from the bustling cities of the Tell to the wind-haunted mountains and deserts, this is a land that will take magi away from the familiar. Whether building a new covenant outside the Tribunals, or visiting in search of magical secrets, there is something for every maga between sand and sea.

 

 

Provencal Material – the Backstory of the Leper Herald

Leper with Bell (Wikimedia Commons)

I’ve just posted the first supplemental material for Faith and Flame over at the relevant page.

Originally the Redcap Sicart the Leper was intended for inclusion in the book as a potentially ally of new characters, but I didn’t feel comfortable statting up various Companion characters initially (I hadn’t written my “Training Packages for Redcaps” article yet). I then ultimately ran out of time.

This character concept came from reading ArM3 A Midsummer Nights Dream, the classic “Four Seasons Tetralogy” adventure supplement set mainly in the Val du Bosque that begins with the infamous Provencal Tribunal meeting  of 1207 set at the ancient covenant of Dois… oh, hang on we can’t mention the trademarks of other companies now can we? Continue reading Provencal Material – the Backstory of the Leper Herald

Redcap Concepts by Tribunal #2 – Hibernia

The Contested IsleSo this is the latest (at least currently published) Tribunal Book and I think looking at the Redcaps in it makes for an interesting contrast to the Stonehenge representation of Redcaps I discussed earlier presented in ArM4 Heirs to Merlin.

For a start, there’s a lot more Redcaps – there’s actually 13 in total to be exact (all unGifted). For what seems such a geographically small Tribunal with only 9 large covenants detailed (although possibly many smaller covenants and a fair share of eremites perhaps) that seems like a generous share compared to the five detailed for Stonehenge.

Continue reading Redcap Concepts by Tribunal #2 – Hibernia

Mythic Corsica Part 1 – Mundane Landscape

Medieval CorsicaI’ve just now completed the first half of the Mythic Corsica gazetteer articles.

Originally one large article, I’ve decided to split it into a few sections (the Mazzeri article being one of the sections), both so I can post some material now and then finish off the second main section but also because I’ll probably add smaller articles over time under the Mythic Corsica page as a sub-folder of the larger Mythic Genoa project.

Continue reading Mythic Corsica Part 1 – Mundane Landscape

The City and Walls of Genoa

Medieval GenoaI’ve loaded up another gazetteer page for the Mythic Genoa section, this time detailing the basic city features and the stout medieval walls built by Frederick Barbarossa.

Eventually I plan to commission (from Sean Macdonald over at Fantasy Cartography) a detailed map of medieval Genoa based on the various anachronistic maps I’ve found on the web and some sketches I’ve made based on my research, as I really like the maps of Sark and Rome he did for Tales of Power.

Of course, I need to flesh out more detail about the actual commune first… there’s still the Lanterna (lighthouse), the leper colony at Capo Fari and some of the notable noble residences to work on but I’m hoping to fill in the spaces soon.