So it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything due to personal reasons and in a practical sense, since the official end of the ArM5 line with Dies Irae, my appetite for contributions has fallen off over the last 2 years in any case.
I’ve been wondering what to do with this blog and whether the current format is as relevant or user friendly to new or existing Ars Magica players as it could be so I’ll be posting over on the Atlas Games Forums for ideas and feedback…
Sub Rosa #17 is jam packed full of cut-file goodies from Faith and Flame
I’d note when I last checked that the Faith & Flame page, with its links to some additional material and my design notes is the most popular page on this blog, so now you can enjoy it even more with the handy PDF version of the supplement and mix in all Sub Rosa content as well!
Browsing through my copy of Mythic Locations, I noticed that Mark Shirley’s Chapter 11: The Wolf’s Court is set in the Gevaudan regionof 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.
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.
I don’t really understand the WordPress statistics yet, but poking around has unearthed some interesting revelations. For instance, here’s the Top Pages/Posts for My Life as a Grog since it’s conception:
So apart from the Home page, the Mythic Genoa section seems the most popular overall, which is somewhat reassuring as that’s meant to be one of the main topics I focus on. As a sub-page of this project, the Baliestrieri Genovese (crossbowmen) seems to really punch above its weight – sure it’s a nice little character guide but I didn’t expect it would be so popular. Perhaps it fills a need for the template for a grog crossbow specialist?
Also, the Walking Sticks article (part of the More than Messengers Redcap material pages) comes in sixth after the home page which is gratifying as I was hoping it to be a useful and interesting piece with wide applicability. Every Redcap needs a walking stick I figured and it seems like there’s more than a passing interest.
Maybe I should offer to host more external material?
Oddly, the small piece I wrote explaining why “Doissetep” doesn’t appear in Faith and Flame seems to have scored a disproportionately large number of hits. Strange.
Looking at the last 30 days, the supplemental Provencal material features prominently, which makes sense I suppose. The Training Packages for Redcaps article features strongly which is also good – I put a lot of effort into that piece of writing and hope it’s helpful for Troupes and of wider interest to the community.
Marko’s Flambeau article still features strongly in the month – it’s useable with Provencal certainly but I wonder whether this suggests it has ongoing appeal. It’s a great article so it deserves to be accessible.
I’ve added a short section on the AeolianIslands 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.
I’ve just spent the last week in Kyoto at a work conference, which was quite intense and didn’t leave me much time for anything Ars related unfortunately. As it was sakura (cherry blossom) season, it was a remarkably beautiful experience on many levels. Most fortunately I am not allergic to the perfume or pollen of the flowers which I was dreading. On the way home I passed through Tokyo and finally met up with the Ars Magica Fifth Edition Line Editor, David Chart.
We calculated that I’ve now worked with David via email for over four years across four official supplements. In person, he’s exactly as I expected him to be in some ways but by the end of our talk I left feeling he was even more interesting and inspiring. We enjoyed a long conversation over a traditional Japanese lunch in a restaurant recommended by one of his English students – easily the best meal I’d had during my visit. I learnt much about the Esoteric Mysteries of Line Editing, the True Names of the Secret Masters of Ars Magica and much other arcane knowledge of which I cannot speak due to the 12th magnitude Ritual Non-Disclosure Agreement he cast upon me with a simple handshake and smile in Tokyo station. Truly an archmagus and a gentleman.
On a non Ars note, we ranged over a number of subjects including our families, what he plans to do with his philosophy degree, a introductory summary of his interest in Shinotism, and also our differing perspectives and impressions of Japanese culture.
He was a most courteous and generous host. By way of example, after lunch I learned that the Narita Express I was due to catch to the airport was cancelled due to high winds and I had to make other arrangements on the fly. David not only sorted out the tickets for me but accompanied across Tokyo to the replacement service (there were 2 changes we had to make and I would have been completely lost without him). As he bid me farewell, we were approached by another tourist was confused by the cancelled airport train issue. David then proceeded to help the other tourist, directing them to make the necessary arrangements to make it to their flight.
I only hope I can provide the same hospitality if he ever manages to make it out to Australia. I’m very glad to count him as a friend and hope to continue to work with him.
Now I really should get on and finish those revisions to the fourth supplement I’m working on which he subtly did not mention once during lunch but I just know he’ll be expecting soon…
I’ve been attending a conference which has chewed up a lot of my time this week and last week was spent putting final edits on my third supplement and reading the playtest reports for the fourth supplement I’ve worked on.
I’ve sketched out some new Arabian and Erythraean Sea material in the background but they’re on hidden pages for the moment until I’ve checked them. Much of it will build on the some wilder concepts I developed aroundThe Thousand Nights and One Night but didn’t have a chance to develop for the final draft.
Keeping with the “tales” theme I’ve just seen the first sketches for my chapter of Tales of Power however and they look amazing! I can’t post them here but if you liked the sample cover art over on the Atlas site, you like these…
I’ve had a very busy week, which means the material I planned to post expanding on The Cradle and the Crescent and further ideas for Genoa has not been checked. I have plenty of material, it’s just that I’m exhausted and would prefer to post quality material.
It looks like comments on a (hopefully) final playtest for one of my upcoming books will be landing in my Inbox soon, so I’ll need to prioritise this for a few weeks.
I’ll likely do some tinkering behind the scenes and add to some of the existing pages before announcing changes in the main posts however, so feel free to poke around for surprises.