Tag Archives: Redcap

Provencal Redux: the County of Gevaudan

Gevaudan Detail (Provencal)
Gevaudan Detail (Provencal)

Browsing through my copy of Mythic Locations, I noticed that Mark Shirley’s Chapter 11: The Wolf’s Court is set in the Gevaudan region of 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.

It’s too late in the month for me to detail a starting covenant for a November NaGaDeMon style project (see Timothy’s Covenant of Sabrina’s Rest project from last year as an example) and I don’t have the time to flesh this concept out further but I think it’s a worthwhile addition to the Provencal supplementary material I’ve already collected.

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.

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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

Redcap Concepts by Tribunal #1 – Stonehenge

The ArM4 supplement Heirs to Merlin, by David Chart, briefly details five male Stonehenge Redcaps (Jocelin, Percival, Great William, Little William and Edgar) based out of the so-called Mercer House near Coventry, a location that is geographically central (pages 114-115).

Although no longer canonical for fifth edition, the supplement contains no game statistics and the material within can be readily adapted to ArM5 (or potentially adapted to a different game system and used as background setting material).

The Mercer House and Redcaps mentioned in Heirs to Merlin differ somewhat from the later ArM5 versions (for details see Houses of Hermes: True Lineages, pages 82-88). These differences may be readily developed however and may create interesting stories.

Continue reading Redcap Concepts by Tribunal #1 – Stonehenge

London Bridge Covenant

“Old London Bridge in 1745″ by Joseph Josiah Dodd

Almost a year to the day since Timothy posted about this on his blog, and I’ve decided there might be something more in this than just idle speculation…

The various images I’ve found are certainly inspiring. Who knows, perhaps I can work up a sample covenant set upon London Bridge over the course of the year (or perhaps as my hopefully more successful upcoming November’s NaGaDeMon challenge)?

As I’m Australian, I don’t have local knowledge (I’ve stayed in London for a week once many years ago now), but I’ve dug up some interesting tidbits readily enough. Apart from the existence of a chapel on the bridge as Timothy noted (actually quite common to most significant medieval bridges), I’ve collected some  other really interesting aspects to the medieval bridge, three in particular which cry out for Hermetic explanation or seem to generate stories:

Continue reading London Bridge Covenant

#6 Birds of a Feather

Feather Parts (Wikimedia Commons)

I’ve been interested in falconry for a while now, although given it’s really more of a lifestyle or art than a mere hobby and it’s virtually impossible practice while technically legal in Australia, my chances of flying any form of raptor unfortunately approaches very close to zero…

This interest helped me write the short Arab Falconry Insert for The Cradle and the Crescent (extrapolating somewhat from the ideas presented in Lords of Men), something I wish I could have expanded on if we’d had words, but regardless of any regrets, the research for that short section was a whole lot of fun and I collected a surplus of ideas and reference material that I knew I’d end up using at some stage.

As further background, the concept of the Milvi Antiquiti, the group of Redcaps that transform into raptors to deliver their messages, has always been a fascinating one to me. The concept however creates an essential problem for the standard Redcap build – what do the Redcaps that can shapeshift into kites using non-Hermetic magic (the Skinchanger Virtue or similar inherent magical powers from Blood of Heroes or hedge magic effects) use for magic items? Just using the available spell levels of enchantment for transformation magic seems inflexible, even at the price of assigning a Minor Virtue to account for the shapeshifting role.

Sure, there are some ideas in the ArM5 corebook that were later expanded on in the Bjornaer section of Houses of Hermes: Mystery Cults for dealing with magic items that shift with their wearer or are usable in animal form, but the focus was not really on items useful to Redcaps IMO. I’d therefore started started doodling around with developing the Lady of Doves, a Mythic Companion Redcap concept themed around doves based on some hedge magic ideas of Timothy’s from an upcoming supplement, and the various magical avian accessories grew organically out of that.

The 30 Redcap Magic Items NaGaDeMon attempt gave me a reason to develop these further, although I hadn’t quite worked out what I was trying to achieve with the concepts – I realise now that more than just providing a “shopping list” for Redcap characters I wanted to push the boundaries of the idea of Redcap equipment beyond the standard magic cloak / magic food preparation device / magic  travel device combination that seems to have become a default.

I think these avian items go some way towards achieving this, but I haven’t stopped there and have some wilder ideas still to come…

My NaGaDeMon Epic Fail :(

OK, so 30 Redcap Magic Items in a month seemed achievable right?

Wrong. 😦

Life does that – sickness in the family, unexpected pressures at work, trying to buy (and sell) a house while planning a trip to Europe etc etc.

Although it doesn’t excuse anything, I notice that the other attempts at NaNoWriMo / NaGaDeMon similarly stalled. (Although Timothy’s “Vanilla Covenant” project seems to be faring well, even though he is the first to admit he’s not really playing by the rules).

Still, it was a real fun start and one post and page per week on this blog wasn’t a bad achievement compared to some of the months I’ve been blogging. I’m really proud of the makila (walking sticks) and lickstone concepts – sure I lifted the latter concept completely from Timothy and just rebadged it for ArM5, but it seems a given to me that magical golden dental plates are a must for any self-respecting fashion conscious 13th century Redcap! 🙂

I found by focusing on a particular topic I actually managed to accumulate a lot of interesting ideas that I’ll hopefully use in the future – tattoos, Faeries as Items, magical feathers and much much more – perhaps even Marco’s amazing Faerie shoes. It also got me thinking about some other concepts: low-level common items with basic magics, the role of hedge magic items for Redcaps, mutable items complements, guidelines for single-use items and their replacements, Redcaps using stories as items, Faerie Item Companions, the interaction between Faerie charms and Redcaps… I think there’s actually a lot to be explored here so I do want to eventually write a full 30 posts / pages on Redcap magic items.

On a technical note, I also learnt quite a bit more about blogging style and formatting, which I think will help as I evolve the rest of the blog and go back and correct some of the issues I had initially with formatting exported text from cut files of supplements or Sub Rosa articles.

Thanks to those who commented on the Atlas Games forums or here on the blog!

#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.