Tag Archives: Levant

The Studia Arabum (Andalusian material)

Arabic script octagram “Read”

Books are an integral part of ArM5 (and earlier editions), and I’ve always been fascinated by the potential story options around books and the potential flavour they create.

While working up some ideas for Andalusian Magi, I researched a load of texts written in Arabic – both original works by Arabic or Persian scholars and those Greek texts translated by the House of Wisdom I wrote up an article on the Studia Arabum, in the style of the Appendix to Art & Academe and collated some ideas on books in general.

The Studia Arabum is the corpus of books later translated from Arabic back into Latin (often via Greek by the Sephardic Jews of southern Iberia, the so-called “Toledo School”. Many of the books later considered seminal works entered medieval Europe via this process, which has just started to provide a glimpse into the secrets of the past and the polymaths of the Arabic speaking lands by the canonical starting time of a default ArM5 Saga (ie. the year 1220 CE).

I’ve begun to post some of the material in sections in the Andalusian Magi section of this site, which I hope players and Troupes will find useful not only for use in Andalusian, Levantine and perhaps even sahir led Mythic Middle East Sagas but also for play in stories involving academia, universities, books and libraries.

Enjoy!

See below for the initial Studia Arabum material:

Related useful material can be found in the article Books in ArM5 

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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

More Andalusian Magic

A Sahir’s Tower? (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Given the remarkable response and popularity of the Andalusian Magic articles I posted recently, I’ve decided to add a few more to the menu and also link them in to the The Mythic Levant project pages.

First, Niall Christie’s article “Islamic Magic and 5th Edition” (published with permission) updating the Islamic Parameters from ArM4 Blood & Sand to 5th edition.

The second article is an update to the concept of “the Faerie Problem” experienced by non-European Hermetic magi more familiar with jinn than traditional Celtic, Germanic or Slavic style faeries.

Both article may also be useful for Sagas set in the Mythic Middle East drawing upon the material in The Cradle and the Crescent.

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.

Rediscovered Sahir and Levantine Material

I’ve been rearranging some of the site structure and editing some of the older pages to keep more in line with the overall theme and style I’ve developed over the last year. This includes checking on blank pages and links to ideas that I intended to create pages for.

I realised some of The Cradle and the Crescent pages were a bit bare, so I’ve filled them in with text and the appropriate links while I dig up some of the older cut-file material. Since one of the original intentions of this site was to supplement that particular work I want to make sure there’s easily accessible Mythic Middle East material.

Excitingly, I’ve also been granted permission by Niall Christie to host his additional ArM4 and ArM5 material for Blood & Sand: the Levant Tribunal, in  particular his unofficial web supplement known as “Vestiges in Sand”. I’ll add this slowly to the Blood & Sand – Redux pages over the next few weeks but for now I’ve added his Variant Fifth Edition Sahir article as a counterpoint to the official tCatC version presented by Erik Dahl.

Niall’s ArM5 version of his original sahir is a simple, more traditional summoner build style of sorcerer that concentrates on Goetic style powers of Summoning and Commanding while incorporating the rules from The Mysteries: Revised Edition. Although I like the way Erik presented the Order of Suleiman and the Solomonic Arts, I prefer a more basic sahir style (reflected in the Solomonic Sihr only style of the Ashab al-Halqa or “Followers of the Circle”).

Rereading Niall’s article has made me think about some of the concepts for sahir Astrological Mysteries (essentially Planetary Invocation style magic) and Jinni Mysteries (powers granted by pacts with jinni tribes) that I wanted to develop but ran out of time, word count and experience to develop further. Hopefully I’ll find some of the old drafts an have a chance to polish them up soon.

 

On the Origin of The Jinn

Lamp (Wikimedia Commons)

I’ve been doing some housekeeping and have activated the page containing the Jinn as Characters article I wrote for the first incarnation of Sub Rosa back in 2007 over here.  This article and the research I did for it not only formed the kernel for my later dedicated Jinn chapter in The Cradle and the Crescent, but was also seemingly responsible for the “tap on the shoulder” from Niall Christie that started me writing for ArM5… but that’s perhaps a story for another time.

Back in the day, I had little other than the ArM4 resources Niall had written and RoP: the Divine (the original tainted by partial ArM4 legacy plagiarization edition), RoP: the Infernal and HoH: Societates so the mechanics are somewhat off.  I was trying to extrapolate from Erik Dahl’s Holy Companion / Nephelim and Cult of Heroes Mythic Companion creation rules and twist them  towards Faerie – time has shown I was way off what Timothy and the others who worked on RoP: Faerie would deliver, but at the time it seemed as good a guess as any.

I think there’s still some good ideas in here – in particular there are some concepts on elemental nature like the Close Elemental Ties Flaw and the idea of Jinn Mysteries that for some reason I never translated into the official product. I’d like to particularly explore the latter at some stage.

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.