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.
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.
One of the major concepts I worked on for the Arelat section of Faith and Flame was that of the allied hedge wizard herbalists of the Coenobium, the so-called “Masques of the Coenobium”.
This concept was eventually watered down to an insert of the same name, the Pralician character Lavandarius and some details on Lavender of Virtue.
Lavandula or lavender is such an iconic symbol of modern Provence that I wanted to be able to include it somehow in the Arelat section but without it being too anachronistic. This attempt lead to a whole lot of research into medieval herbalism, the reputedly magical classical properties of lavender in ancient Greek medicine and investigation into the local folk magic of Provence.
As I’m a unabashed “hedge magic tragic” from way back, some sort of allied collective of subsidiary Cunning-Folk / Folk Witch style herbalists seemed a logical concept to develop further, particularly for a covenant like the Coenobium where the Jerbiton magi style themselves as living in good taste (hence the perfumes, fine pastries, sauces and spiced wine) and the Redcap contingent has need for a plethora of useful minor magical items.
I’d always considered Hermetic enchanted devices as quite powerful for Redcaps (although arguably important from a meta-game perspective) and wanted to explore the potential of Redcaps relying on hedge magic devices as it seemed more authentically medieval in flavour. More on this perhaps in a later post…
The following article collects some of this material cut from the Arelat drafts: