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Tyndolionel
Oct 18, 2004
Ghost Fog Sabre Deluxe!

Flavivirus posted:

To be honest I don't think it fits under any of these things, being a tightly focused storytelling game centred around one particular story, but I won't spoil the review. Suffice to say I've heard very good things about it but can see why someone might hate it.
Oh, that game! The one that was in the bundle just a while ago! I looked at it, and I thought the description looked interesting, but immediately thought, "No-one in my group is going to want to touch this with a ten-foot pole." I'll be curious to find out whether it's going to be mocked purely based on the premise, or whether it is also insanely pretentious otherwise.

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Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder
2014-2018



Ars Magica 5th Edition: Houses of Hermes: True Lineages

Gifted Mercere are extremely close to the House, though they do not work as Redcaps. They are unbelievably rare, a result of the fact that Mercere the Founder only ever trained two - both his own children. This set a precedent. Now, Mercere magi train their own families if they have the Gift, and take all others to other magi. Any magus who cannot trace their bloodline back to the Founder is considered illegitimate and looked down on, expected to make up for their master's failure to take an apprentice of the family line by exclusively teaching properly descended apprentices themselves. Redcaps, of course, do not suffer the requirements of blood, for the only clear qualifications by which Mercere chose them were dedication and loyalty, though those who have the Founder's bloodline are often given special favor and respect, and of course their Gifted children are highly sought after by Mercere magi. Rare as they are, Mercere magi do get some benefits. First, when Redcaps hire people to make items or longevity rituals for them, the Mercere magi are given the right of first refusal. They are allowed to buy those items relatively cheaply, much as Redcaps are. They may borrow up to ten pawns of vis from the House without paying interest, and may exchange vis at no added cost. Redcaps tend to do their best to help Mercere magi, and serving one is usually seen as a cause that is worth neglecting other duties for. Traditionally, Mercere magi are given free passage through Mercere's Portals, and they are always welcome to join a Mercer House.

Mercere magi are not discouraged from voting at Tribunals. However, most do not vote, to avoid appearing superior to Redcaps. The Redcaps respect their authority, and in return, the Mercere magi do not rub their noses in it. All Mercere magi spend one season every seven years traveling and delivering messages as Redcaps do, to keep their sense of perspective and humility, and they tend to like avoiding being seen as wizards. Some actually quite enjoy tricking people into thinking they have no magic. In some ways, they are almost ashamed of their Gift. There is a taboo against open spellcasting in the House, and many Mercere, Gifted and not, believe magic should be done behind closed doors or via invested devices exclusively. Mercere magi often like to forgo gestures and words when they can manage it, or to use small objects to pretend to activate while casting when they use magic in public. All Mercere are encouraged to marry and have as many kids as possible (or not marry and just...have as many kids as possible) in the hopes of having more Gifted children of the bloodline. They often begin having kids at very young ages, and all are expected to have at least one before their longevity rituals render them sterile. These children are generally raised at covenants and Mercer Houses, treasured as grogs, potential Redcaps and, rarely, magi. Ancestry is highly prized by Mercere, and they tend to be able to recite their lineage perfectly. They also tend to practice the same magic their parents (or ancestors, in some cases) did. It's said Mercere was highly skilled at Muto, and Creo is highly prized, so both are common among Mercere.

Mercere's son was already his apprentice before the Order formed. His new duties meant that the boy was left to develop on his own quite a bit, at least until Harco was founded and Mercere had more free time. After swearing the Oath, Mercere gave his son a new name: Priamitus, last of the ancient line and first of the new. Priamitus held his ancestors in great awe. He had little interest in messages, but the old gods fascinated him. He saw his Gift as both blessing and curse, a sign of divine favor and great responsibility. While traveling with Mercere, he realized that because of his Gift, the gods listened when he called for aid, and he began to learn about the ancient pagan rites. He saw it as his duty to become a priest of the Cult of Mercury, a new leader of the old order, and he returned to Harco to begin his new task. Other Houses, particularly House Flambeau, helped him rebuild the Cult. Or, more accurately, he helped them, being just one man, but because Priamitus learned Mercurian magic from Mercere and taught it to his children and apprentices as a Hermetic lineage, his children have special status in the new Cult of Mercury as direct descendants of the priests of old. It is these Mercere magi who describe the Founder as the reborn Mercury and worship him. Many believe that on death, they will ascend to the Magic Realm to join him. About half of all Mercere magi still practice Mercurian magic as their ancestors did, integrated now into Hermetic theory. They tend to focus on mastering the spells they learn over learning many spells.

The Cult of Mercury is made of many Houses, and can be found wherever magi practice Mercurian ritual. Within it (or beside it, depending on who you ask) are smaller groups with similar beliefs and ways. One of those is primarily Mercere and rather small: the Cult of Heroes, who say that the great heroes of antiquity such as Beowulf, Heracles, Arthur and Gilgamesh were literal descendants of the gods. They say that these heroes will be born again. Hero-Cultists seek out exceptional children who possess supernatural attributes belying their divine nature, using stories, investigative magic and occasionally dreams. These children are adopted as Redcaps, for the Cult of Heroes believes that if nurtured and raised to support the Order, these potential demigods will grow into the power of their ancestors. Such children are exceptionally rare - perhaps three or four in all of Europe. However, their origins are obvious, for they are exceptionally blessed by nature and clearly superior to normal people. Perhaps, some say, even to magi. These Heroes are playable, as a note. The Blood of Heroes is a new form of Mythic Companion, whose primary abilities include having truly amazing stats and being able to perform superhumanly potent versions of normal human feats. A guy who has the blood of Heracles, for example, might be able to lift literally anything a few times a day. The Cult of Heroes also contains normal Redcaps who bear faint traces of the blood, most of whom are pagans, and magi who practice Mercurian magic or who bear heroic blood within their veins.

Several years after the Order was founded, Mercere took a second apprentice who, like Priamitus, was his son. Some believe the child's mother was also in the Order, but for whatever reason, Mercere never revealed it, even to the boy. The boy grew up in Durenmar, not Harco, for that is where Mercere spent most of his time in those days, and it was clear from the first that the child was an excellent theorist. Halfway through the apprenticeship, however, Mercere lost his Gift. Like Priamitus, the boy took an interest in self-study and trained with other magi as well, eventually presenting himself under the name Hermes Triceres. Like Mercere, he was skilled in Muto magic, demonstrating the power to become a bird, a fish and a wolf to prove himself as a magus. While the assembled magi were in agreement that he'd passed the Gauntlet, they were unwilling to call him as important a name as Hermes and instead gave him the affectionate nickname 'Mutant', changeling.

Triceres was very hurt by this, feeling determined to earn the name he'd chosen, and he moved back to Harco, dedicating himself to studying and experimenting with Hermetic theory to push it to its limits. He came to specialize in Muto Vim - what was later termed 'metamagic' - and developed the rudimentary forms of many modern spells. For most of his life, he interacted with no one. He had three children, but none had the Gift. They had several children, who likewise lacked the Gift. However, one of his great-grandsons was born with the Gift, and Triceres adopted the child as an apprentice, teaching him everything he could. He'd written many books on metamagic, which he gifted to the boy as inheritance. Copies still survive, but few magi use them, for they are of especially low quality and make very little sense to most outside the lineage. Triceres was not a good writer.

Triceres' great-grandson took the name Mutantus after the death of his master, continuing to experiment with Muto, which he found quite simple. He studied transformation magic especially, and developed several unusual spells that incorporate his great-grandfather's work. These let him cancel a spell without waiting for it to end, among other things, and by 1220 this work has become almost a basic function of most Muto Corpus spells, though most magi do not understand the implications. Mutantus had a large family, and he eventually trained three of his descendants in his magic, for they had the Gift. They name themselves Mutantes, and based partly on their father's work and partly on Triceres' metamagic, they developed a new way of looking at magic theory, a way that gave them immense control over their spells. It is tied to their bloodline, known as Mutantum Magic ('the magic of the Mutantes') and can only be fully mastered by Mercere as a result, though other magi can be taught rudimentary aspects of it. Mutantes refer to the process as magic-taming, picturing magic as a wild beast or chaotic spirit. Most magi just summon it and let it run loose, according to its nature. Mutantes, however, see themselves as taming the beast magic, giving it direction and binding it, as a rider does a horse or a shepherd does a sheep.

This philosophy and their natural affinities allow Mutantes to invent spells with unusual power over magic. They know the secret of Boosted Magic, allowing them to incorporate vis into the casting to improve the spell's parameters rather than make it easier to cast. They describe this as feeding the magic, to make it stronger and bigger. Harnessing Magic allows them to put their spells to work like domesticated beasts, releasing them from service earlier than the spell would do on its own. A harnessed spell may be ended at any time by mere concentration, over any distance. Tethered Magic allows the caster to place reins on the spell, handing its control over to others or even to inanimate objects. If passed to a person, the tethered spell treats that person as if they were the caster. If passed to an object, the spell is cast automatically on any appropriate target in range. The tether lasts no longer than the spell does, and tethered spells can never be made permanent. Ritual spells cannot be tethered, either.

The Mutantes have also studied ancient records. The historian Diodorus Siculus wrote in his Bibliotheca Historica that there were EGyptian shapeshifters who functioned as hereditary priests and recorders of magic. These primitive spells later developed into Mercurian ritual and ultimately became part of Hermetic theory. Many Mutantes believe that their bloodline descends from these wizard-priests by way of Mercere the Founder. Other legends they have found suggest that these ancestors maintained the Great Library of Alexandria before its destruction by Caesar, and that they rescued many books that would have burned. Diodorus writes that the books were brought to Thebes by men who could be hawks, who wore purple-red caps with a feather in them. The Mutantes say the proof of their theories is that Mercere himself had just such a cap.

Thus, the Milvi Antiquiti, the 'kites of old', consist of Mutantes and their allies, who seek to preserve and distribute knowledge through the Order. They do this by copying ancient texts and lending them to other magi. Because these books are in high demand and the Milvi expect people to copy them, they tend to charge a small fee for their services - usually one pawn per season or three pawns for a year. Magi are generally willing to pay for access to otherwise lost books, and young magi especially get more value from the books than studying the vis directly. To help carry the books, the Milvi specialize in a spell that turns the bearer and all his possessions into a bird, traditionally a hawk. The Milvi also contain Redcaps, who do their normal duties but typically also transport valuable and heavy items by using magic items that contain this spell. They tend to keep lists of what books are available where, and sometimes borrow them to lend out in their travels. Milvini magi tend to exclusively be Mutantes, while Milvini Redcaps are generally scribes, most of whom bear a magic item that lets them become a hawk. Usually, it's the hat.

There aren't really enough Mercere magi to support entire groups, so there aren't more Societas Merceris that involve them a lot. However, they do often fall into a few categories. Because many Redcaps use animals as mounts, Mercere magi (and especially Mutantes) often learn Animal magic to help support them. Some Mercere magi specialize in dueling and serve as champions for those Redcaps challenged to Certamen. Ever since the Schism War, the Mercere have been known for their dedication to peace, and many of them are healers. It is also especially easy for Mercere magi to specialize in less scrupulous magic, pretending to be Redcaps and using their powers to steal or con people out of things. While there aren't many of them, they are often some of the best teachers out there, since they almost exclusively teach their own families...and because when a new apprentice is taken, it's a big loving deal. Some also specialize in creating enchanted devices, largely to make money off the House's constant need for them. Mercere magi are also the only people in the world permitted to study and recreate Mercere's Portals - the House forbids anyone else from learning the trick.

Next time: House Tremere.

General Ironicus
Aug 21, 2008

Something about this feels kinda hinky




ASHEN STARS
Website
pdf on DriveThru RPG

Part 13: Contractual Obligations

Now that we've covered how Lasers do their jobs, it's time to talk about how Lasers get their jobs. When you're an independant contractor landing the next contract is always a priority. I've got a crew to feed and my LIQUID BONES won't pay their own upkeep. This chapter covers how that all works, which involves some important mechanics and Abilities I've danced around, so let's finally get to them:

Chapter 9: On the Contract

Reputation is everything in life, and in Ashen Stars even more so. Every crew has a rating which represents public opinion of them. Sometimes your reputation will precede you, and back at Ossa One they are keeping track. Every session should have one or two events that impact Reputation, making PCs experience the tension between ideals and pragmatism that the setting is built around. Raising your reputation generally involves going above the requirements of the mission. Solving additional problems, protecting the defenseless at your own risk, and turning your back on a payday for what's right will all go a long way in the public consciousness. Sometimes the right thing and the mission objectives clash, and that's where things can get interesting.

When you believe an action taken would build Reputation let the GM know. If they agree, it goes to a test of Public Relations, with difficulty modified by whether the action benefits society, was public, was risky, and if it makes a marketable narrative. If people don't know you did good things they can hardly be expected to give you credit for it, so spread the word around.



Handshakes are generally a good practice, but not enough to increase your Reputation on their own.

We've already seen a few ways Reputation can be decreased. Usually, any action that sets you apart as 'one of the bad ones' is liable to spark a scandal, even if it helped you get the job done. This also triggers a PR test in order to suppress the story, or take control of the tabloid narrative. It's modified in the same way as above, but each successful previous damage control test adds 1 to the difficulty. The public is fickle and loves a good scandal, your skills may be impressive but that's a law of nature. At the end of a session the GM tallies up the number of Reputation-altering items that got out to the people. If the ones in your favor outnumber the scandals your Reputation goes up by 1 and vice versa. The way Reputation events are used and their difficulties are also presented as another way to modulate the game's tone.

Contracts are the life of any Laser crew, and they come in a few varieties. The most common is a "hardclaused" contract which specifies a clear end goal you need to achieve to earn payment. This covers things like apprehending a fugitive, recovering stolen goods, making a delivery, and all that fun stuff. Contracts may be drawn up based on bad info, but that doesn't change the contract itself, it just means you'll either need to chat with whoever issued it or make a tough choice on your own. Contracts can also be more open ended, identifying a problem and empowering the Lasers to take "appropriate action". Any contracts with that clause are called "double-As".

Not every episode will start with landing a contract, sometimes trouble finds you. In that case, your investigations will likely lead you to a client willing to make it worth your while. A contract initiated by Lasers is known as a pickup contract, and they're generally used to hook into a personal arc and/or provide some variety in structure. The rules assume a payout for every job, so not finding a client is "gratuitously punitive" and landing one should be free of obstacles.



These guys have brains capable of understanding the greatest mysteries of time and space, but they still can't follow soap operas.

There's a lot of work out there for Lasers, but there's also a lot of ships looking to make a buck. Each new episode starts with a downtime test to see how long it's been since you got a call from Ossa Prime. It's a Business Affairs test with a difficulty modified by Reputation. The higher your reputation the more regular your work. The precise amount of downtime depends on the margin of your success or failure, and is measured in months. All upkeep costs are per month and have to be paid once you know how long you're floating jobless in space. Contracts pay out a standard fee which varies based on the number of players (X=24+6p where p=number of PCs) and can be modified with bonuses if the mission has additional, non-essential goals that the crew achieves.

Side deals are another way to score bigcreds. They're jobs someone offers outside the contract system, and always carry a risk of the GMs choosing. But they also have cash and who can say no to that. Half the time it's just hauling freight, but anything you can imagine someone hiring a licensed effectuator for is on the table. The payout for side deals is the same as a contract bonus, but the crew has a chance to haggle for more. The bonuses and deals available in a standard episode shouldn't exceed 3, with wiggle room for notably long or short episodes.

That usually makes for plenty of available cash, but crews can still fall short on their bills when things swing against them. Lasers can take out loans with a Business Affairs test modified by Reputation. Credit ratings in the Bleed are of the "He saved my cousin's life once" variety. The margin of success or failure determines the time you have to pay it off and how much interest will be charged. These aren't accredited Combine banks either, so expect regular checkups from shady folk with an odd fixation on your thumbs and a favor to ask.



The tediousness of 'Go Space-Fish' is included in your ship's upkeep value.

The whole contract system is about upholding the law, so let's talk about the law now. Usually an episode will end with you slapping the cuffs on a guy and dropping him off somewhere, but there's material here for bringing the judicial system into your games when you want it. It's also handy info in case your PCs are brought up on charges for a crime they didn't commit. But really, what are the odds of that in a space opera adventure series?

First, it's good to remember that you're beholden to the laws of whoever hired you. The Laser program works most often with planets and peoples that recognize Combine law, but as we've seen the situation is always liable to get stickier than that. Jurisdiction can also complicate matters. The Combine claims all open space between Combine worlds, and the right to prosecute crimes committed on formerly-affiliated planets. Those claims are refuted by alien and autonomous planets. If they wanted to recognize Combine authority, they wouldn't be autonomous.

The court is familiar to anyone living in the 21st century in a country descended from English common law. Setting-supporting exceptions include truth-sensing devices monitoring testimony, jury selection involving Balla psychological tests, and jury deliberation having a Tavak meditation ceremony included.

Only extreme breakaway worlds and some aliens consider the death penalty. Many convicts spend a period of monitored probation and therapy, called Supervised Rehabilitation. On struggling worlds this boils down to house arrest. Combine prisons also have a rehabilitative focus, but imprisonment on autonomous worlds often has a focus on punishment. The Combine also contracts with privately-run penal colonies for their most dangerous offenders. As their biggest customer, Combine law has considerable sway over how they run their business, but they are not technically under Combine jurisdiction. Instead they work much like Lasers, trading on their reputations in order to score contracts with governments who need a place for their criminals to serve sentences. Some of them are even run by Lasers who went for a career change, and they'll know every trick you've got to spring the prisoner who has the information you need to crack the case and find your long-lost twin before horrible consequences befall... excuse me, I've fallen into adventure planning again.



No explanation is given for why juries are filled with ghouls.

Next Time: Worldbuilding on a planetary scale.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder
2014-2018



Ars Magica 5th Edition: Houses of Hermes: True Lineages

House Tremere has, at least count, 92 magi, 41 of whom are in the Transylvanian Tribunal. They utterly dominate the Transylvanian Tribunal, which is the home of Coeris, their domus magna. Their Prima is Poena, who has ruled for two years. Their motto, 'Voluntas vincit omnia' ('The Will conquers all') is rarely used, since the Sundering proved it wasn't true and besides, quoting Tremere the Founder pointlessly antagonizes people. Many Tremere favor quotes from Xenophon, and a favorite motto of individual Tremere is that of King Lycurgus of Sparta: 'Obedience is of the highest benefit.' The primary symbol of the House is the symbol of Mars incised within a square, which represents the inevitability of war. The Tremere accept this, but do not hunger for it any more. Rather, they see the mark as a sign that they are soldiers, first and foremost. The square represents a flagstone, reminding the House of the importance of the Roman roads to the Empire, a symbol of logistics.

House Tremere has several other symbols. They praise the ethos of the wolf pack, gentle to friends but savage to enemies. The Dacians, whose name came from the word daoi, 'wolves', ruled Transylvania before Rome did, and went to war under a wolf-headed dragon banner. Tremere's familiar was a white wolf from a sacred pack, and many Tremere familiars are wolves. Some say that the House knows a ritual to create werewolves, or that werewolves serve them, and many believe the white wolves of the forest are Tremere spies. The House also occasionally uses the symbols of the butterfly and the two-pronged fork, which call back to the Aita priesthood from which they descend. The butterfly was Aita's mark, and when the cult served Pluto, the two-pronged pitchfork was its sign. They rarely use these signs publically, however. The moth, you see, particularly the death's head moth, is seen in Romania as the sign of the moro, a vampire made by the murder of unbaptized children via being left in the wilderness. (The Tremere adopt such foundlings when they run into them. It encourages loyalty.) The pitchfork is seen as the sign of two, the perfect number. Tremere love working in pairs, trained two apprentices, making paired copies of things and so on. The House is also notable for its uniform: robes dyed with residue left after extracting the vis from the Waters of Forgetfulness, harvested below Coeris. This uniform is a sign of solidarity with the House, reminding the Tremere that the House will care for them until they, too, rest in the funereal caverns. The dye begins blue-black, but over time it darkens. After twenty years, it becomes a deep and true black, and after thirty more it fades to charcoal gray. The House dyes spare cloth every year so that a magus can request new robes of the appropriate hue.

The House's history begins with a tradition of necromantic diviners who forced secrets from the newly dead. These diviners were first servants of the Etruscan god Aita, and later the Roman Pluto. Eventually, they became the priests of Mercury Psychopompos, the Conductor of Souls, within the Cult of Mercury under Augustus. They had no temples, and they met in secret in places of the dead. When the Roman catacombs became the sites used by furtive Christian churches, the ancestors of the Tremere sensed the upwelling of the Dominion. They couldn't agree on a response, and the sect collapsed into shards. After centuries of quiet warfare, the cult consolidated into several groups. Trianoma met in 757 with the necromancer Guorna the Fetid, ruler of the Naples remnant. Guorna's tradition had secularized since deserting Pluto and then Hermes. They retained their power over ghosts and dreams, but focused increasingly on animating the dead. Guorna was perhaps the finest necromancer of her age, but the primitive rituals that had extended her life made her pus-filled and cadaverous. She designed a ritual that would allow her to move her spirit to a younger body, but her two apprentices, Tremere and Tytalus, fled before she could use it.

While Guorna studied with Bonisagus, Tytalus and Tremere slaughtered her followers and looted her stronghold. Where and how Guorna died is not recorded by history, but few doubt that Tremere and Tytalus were responsible. They, too, studied with Bonisagus, but were rather more forthcoming than their mistress had been. When the Order formed, many believe that Tremere would join House Tytalus. Instead, he brought powerful allies to the Tribunal - the necromantic remnant of Dacia. Tytalus was unwilling to fight Tremere and his followers. Thus, Tremere became the youngest Founder...and, though he'd never admit it, the weakest. During the formation of the Order, he was forced to find ways to avoid becoming servant to Tytalus, finding allies.

There are several contradictory tales explaining Tremere's decision to create a personal army. The true history is lost, but the effect is not: the idea of the House was that Tremere, with his followers, could dissuade the aggression of Tytalus and Flambeau. Soon after the Order formed, Tremere retired to the Transylvanian Alps to build a defensible base, now known as the covenant Coeris. He then began to extend his alliance via force, attacking the magicians of the Byzantine Empire and sacking their places of power. He never succeeded in building his empire - the Byzantine magi pledged support to each other, retook most of their territory and forced Tremere into a settlement when they joined the Order under Jerbiton. He sought other ways to achieve power.

First, Tremere tried to subvert the legal tradition of the Order. He aided Bonisagus in the creation of certamen, spreading it with the help of Trianoma and Jerbiton. He became a master duelist, able to defeat even Tytalus and Flambeau in this limited sphere. In 817, he got the Grand Tribunal to accept certamen as "decisive in all disputes," giving him advantages in pivotal matters. His strategy stretched over decades, and with certamen, Tremere took control of vast swathes of the Order, manufacturing disputes and settling them with magical duels. Some magi respected him as the final living Founder. Others believed they needed a strong leader thanks to his fearmongering. His House bound others with economic convenience and political aid. In the final stages of his plan, Tremere did not hesitate to use naked force to cow key opponents. He intended to have himself declared overlord of the Order at the Grand Tribunal of 850.

Tremere's plans were ruined in 848, when a group of magi shattered the minds of his lieutenants, leaving him vulnerable to the many magi he had browbeaten into submission. This is now remembered as the Sundering of Tremere. The Primus of Guernicus negotiated a truce. In exchange for promising never to dominate the Order, his lieutenants would be restored. To ensure Tremere kept the promise, the Primus of Guernicus removed his memory of who was responsible and where he had met them. Tremere agreed to allow his memories to be monitored, to ensure he would never remember. It isn't true that he died of disappointment, for Tremere lived on until 862, but he was broken by the defeat and turned control of House Tremere to his advisors. After the Sundering, few magi trusted the House, and they became insular, retreating to their places of power.



In the eyes of many, the honor of House Tremere was regained in battle. After a century, the leaders who had faced Tremere the Founder had died or faded, and though their descendants distrusted Tremere magi, they did not hate them so violently. House Tremere assisted the Quaesitores in the purging of the demonically corrupted Tytalus, and barely forty years later, they were massacred in the Schism War. Compared to demon worship and human sacrifice, megalomania doesn't seem so bad. It is popular among some portions of the Order to suggest that, perhaps, House Diedne did not deserve destruction. Perhaps, they say, the druids were not so bad. Maybe the stories were spread by Tremere, for was their reputation not redeemed by the War? Tremere magi dismiss such ideas. They fervently believe that House Diedne deserved to die. They accept that, yes, hatred of non-Latin magi ran deep in their House, but they also do not question that House Diedne practiced abhorrent rituals and were causing widespread turmoil which threatened the Order. They don't claim they behaved perfectly. They know they did not, and House Tremere has never tried to hide its failings. However, they point out, over half of House Tremere died in the Schism War. Those who cannot respect the dead who fought to protect the Order, who gave up their lives for the Order - these are enemies of House Tremere.


Yeah, House Tremere are assholes, but they're humanist assholes.

At the end of the Schism War, mundane war threatened the House. In 1014, a Byzantime army invaded Bulgaria, defeating the Bulgarians. The Byzantine general blinded 14,000 captives, save for one who was only blinded in one eye that he might lead the rest of the army back to the capital. Samuel, King of the Bulgars, died of shock at the sight of that fumbling mass of men, and the kingdom was subdued for four years. House Tremere could never prove that the Theban wizards were behind the invasion, but the coincidental timing was extremely unfortunate for the House. The Tremere magi offered to return sight to those blinded, if they swore lifelong service. For about 60 years after the Schism War, the House returned to introspection. It continued to interact with others, but the resources of the House were spent on a reconstruction effort that, in hindsight, was excessive. The House's leaders knew that they had been devastated by the war, and they didn't know if another was coming. Many of Tremere's military magic items date back to this time, built to replace those destroyed or exhausted by the Schism War. By 1071, however, the House leaders began to feel that their obsessive preparations against the vanished Diedne and easily corrupted Byzantines were a bit much, and large numbers of Tremere began once more to join multi-House covenants in the 1070s, in part to make the House appear less threatening.

The Tremere have no official formal policy of causing trouble among the nobles of Transylvania, but on a purely local basis, they have tended to prevent power from aggregating. This lack of powerful nobles has helped to fuel and endless cycle of invasion and civil war. In the 12th century, the Byzantines invaded Hungary and Bulgaria, two principal kingdoms of the Transylvanian Tribunal, over twenty times. Before 1185, civil war was incessant. In 1185, however, a pair of brothers from Tirnova rebelled against the Byzantines and forced a truce that removed the Bulgarian mountains from Imperial control. The elder brother, called Asen, began to raid Thrace and Macedonia, forcing Emperor Isaac Angelus to send his forces north. The Bulgarians crushed the Byzantine army, shocking the Imperial government. The Bulgar rebellion persisted under a series of kings leading to King Ivan Asen II, the current Tsar of Bulgaria. Ivan II claims the title 'Emperor of the Bulgars and Greeks' and is a great foe of the Latins who currently occupy Constantinople. He wants to take it from them, to become the center of his Bulgar-Greek Empire, and the main thing protecting the city from his armies as of 1220 is that Constantinople is the weakest of the four major players in the Balkans, and Ivan is rather more worried about Epirus and Nicaea than the Latins.





Next time: Modern Tremere

HitTheTargets
Mar 3, 2006

I came here to laugh at you.


Uh... Is that all they say about gay eyeballs? Did they just drop the mic after that?

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder
2014-2018



HitTheTargets posted:

Uh... Is that all they say about gay eyeballs? Did they just drop the mic after that?

Yes. People with magical eyeball bloodline are more likely to be gay. We done, House Tremere out. (They also really, really don't give a poo poo if you're gay.)

HitTheTargets
Mar 3, 2006

I came here to laugh at you.


Well, that justifies a lot of my Naruto fan fiction, at least.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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Ars Magica 5th Edition: Houses of Hermes: True Lineages

Coeris, the domus magna of Tremere, is a rather pleasant covenant, originally designed as a fallback site for wounded warriors, where they could use the waters of forgetfulness to heal their psychological injuries. The House histories claim that Coeris sits atop the Gate of Eurydice, the abyss into which Orpheus descended to the underworld. Some Tremere claim they could also use the Gate to visit the lands of the dead, but do not because use of the Gate causes Warping. The House as a whole has very little interest in the Gate of Eurydice, because most believe it to be a regio which reflects visions of the traveler's hopes and dreams, leading to self-absorption and detachment from reality. It is, however, the focus of Tremere funereal practice. Tremere's coffin was carried through the Gate, and the ashes of Tremere magi are poured into it. The walls of the cavern that surround it have ten thousand niches, with a space for the sigil of every Tremere magus, ordered by Gauntlet date. The Primus, for ceremonial reasons, sometimes removes the Founder's sigil.

Coeris is the ultimate stronghold of Tremere, but it is not the final fallback. The House assumes that by the time Coeris becomes the final bastion, all hope will be lost. Coeris is, instead, the storehouse of House Tremere's treasury and their favored mustering point. The fractious senior Tremere are fully aware that the Primus thus has all of that might on call. There are also Tremere covenants throughout the Transylvanian, Iberian, Roman, Stonehenge and Theban Tribunals, with a handful of Tremere covenants elsewhere. These serve as storage depots, research facilities and rallying points, while more experienced magi live in multi-House covenants. Modern Tremere typically are raised in House covenants and then go elsewhere. They do like each other's company, however, and find many excuses to meet up between Tribunals, such as Ceremonies of Welcome or funerals. All Tremere magi who own their own sigils also gather at Coeris every ten years to help consider the future of the House, making it something of an extended, rather demanding family.

Tremere magi are noted for their pragmatism, practically to the point of pessimism. They believe that the world punishes the incautious, that terrible things happen regularly and that those who prepare are those who best survive. Those who do not and waste their time on frivolities dishonor the sacrifices of other, better magi. That said, the Tremere are not so miserable as their philosophy might suggest. They enjoy using their power and studying the Arts. For the most part, they love their parentes and enjoy friendships. They have their own interests. They just believe that those luxuries are paid for in blood. Those who enjoy them will pay for them again when they need to.

The House believes in a military ethos of preparedness, because all power must be protected. The ability to defend yourself, they say, is the basic test of maturity. When the House expects a long period of peace (as it does currently), it accumulates political and economic power, storing it as insurance against future trouble. This is known as the Doctrine, the Tremere method of war and living. This, they feel, seperates them from "warriors," whom they characterize as glory-seeking. Tremere are not warriors. They are soldiers, fighting as coordinated groups with time-tested methods. They do not seek personal triumph, just respect. The Doctrine states that it is dishonorable to be unfit for war, focusing on a vision of war in which each soldier carries their own gear faster than a pack mule could, may redeploy at will and recovers better from ambush. Many Tremere magi are athletic and skilled in field repair of equipment, and the Tremere aesthetic favors athleticism among both men and women.

House Tremere is not especially subtle in its desire to rule the world. However, this desire for domination is not born of pride, at least directly. Rather, it is born of order. Tremere magi believe that one government over the world would reduce chaos, tragedy and crises. Great accomplishments would be easier if magi pooled their efforts. However, House Tremere does not trust anyone other than House Tremere to be able to rule the world wisely. Mind you, Tremere's vision of a totalitarian empire died with the Sundering. It is gone. The other magi of House Tremere never embraced it, and nor did those Tremere drew in from outside the House. Rather, they look to the government he promised them - that after a brief period of military rule, the Order would have a federal structure. While the modern House is more homogenous than in Tremere's time, most of its members believe a federal world government could be practiced. They know that the Order will never accept the Doctrine, but they feel it might be convinced, with skilled evangelism, to in time adopt parts of it. The magi of House Tremere support the Order because, with a small handful of gross exceptions, it has maintained peace between and prevented diabolism by the most dangerous people in Europe for more than four centuries. They don't feel the insular, manorial culture of the Order is the best way for magi to live or rule themselves, but other magi believe in the Order, and so it is worth keeping and improving, however slowly.

House Tremere has absolute dominance over the Transylvanian Tribunal. No Tremere-supported proposal has failed to pass there in over two centuries. As of 1220, 41 Tremere live within its borders and 51 in all other Tribunals combined. This is seen as an outward-looking political posture. Another 20-odd magi and Redcaps live within the Transylvanian Tribunal as guests of House Tremere. They tend to be specialists of some kind or other. Of course, the Tribunal is bigger than the House can administrate effectively. It has only five covenants, stretches from the Adriatic to the Black Sea and contains all of Hungary and Croatia as well as all of Bulgaria that is north of the Rodopi Mountains. The House has deliberately kept the Tribunal population far lower than needed, to allow its members to collect enough vis to pay the specialists, fund its projects and lay aside logistics in case of war. Young Tremere magi trained in other Tribunals tend to spend a few years in Transylvania before returning home, to maintain the House's cultural cohesion. Young Tremere magi who act independently tend to have been trained in the Transylvanian Tribunal in the first place.

Tremere magi practice block voting, allowing their leaders to negotiate from strength and coordinate positions at trial. By freely proxying their votes at Tribunal, they sidestep rulings preventing magi from buying and selling votes on criminal matters. You see, every Tremere magus gives his sigil to his parens when he becomes a magus. This symbolically represents the House practice of allowing the parens to control the vote. If the parens doesn't control their own sigil, both are sent up the chain, and so on. The only way to get your sigil back is to defeat your parens at certamen. (Or whoever actually holds yours, if your parens doesn't.) However, even those who hold their own sigils tend to partake in block voting and free proxy to the Tremere leader of the local Tribunal, to aid in House political goals. The House has several aims. First, it wants to refine rulings where the Code is silent. The Tremere advocate for apprentice's rights, and young Tremere magi remain close to their former masters, unlike other Houses. Second, the House requests that rulings be reviewed for changed circumstances. For example, they often question the common older assumption that the property of all magi n a covenant is held communally by the covenant. They also often question the definition of 'legitimate dispute' for purposes of certamen settling. The House loves to define terms in favorable ways. For example, they have argued in the past that giving sanctuary to a faerie prince involved in a civil war, even if it did lead to his rivals attacking another covenant, was interference, not molestation.

House Tremere advocates changes to the Code that would permit Tribunals to compel magi to assist the Order. Contributions to research covenants, embassies to foreign magical groups and expeditions to far-off lands are currently all on a volunteer basis. Miserly covenants often refuse to help others, knowing that House Bonisagus will still freely share information with them. House Tremere desires a common purse to pay for these things, and believe that in war, the Order should have the power to compel material assistance from its members.

House Tremere also, with the possible exception of the Divine, believe that all gods are swindlers that deserve no role in the deliberations of magi. This isn't an especially major point with the Order in the 13th century, but some people get offended that Tremeres refuse to swear oaths to Hermes. They are also interested in discovering the abilities of those magical groups that lie outside Hermetic hegemony. They are a source of both useful ideas and potential threats, so assessing them is prudent. House Tremere is especially concerned with learning the abilities of Islamic wizards. They seek to strengthen and enrich their House, claiming many vis sites and sources of mundane wealth, keeping a portion of all of it in a treasury against future chaos. They prefer to avoid wasting resources and live more frugally than most wizards. They also use their funds, in peacetime, for projects to bring in even more wealth or to make future conflicts less likely.



Lastly, House Tremere frequently interacts with the groups protected from harm by the Code. They'd prefer an open detente with the faeries, Church and nobles of Europe, in which they explain the goals of the Order, their laws against molestation and the services magi are permitted to offer in exchange for land or favors. However, while this is not permitted, the House does not do it, because House Tremere does not break the Code, at least according to its own interpretation of it. The Tremere do not interfere with mundanes, but do not consider honest trade to be interference, even if it advantages a shrewd mundane over a stupid one. The Tremere do not molest faeries, but often support certain faeries over others of their kind. They are ambivalent on the Church, but tend to try and convince monasteries near covenants to sell their land, and to get hermits to settle as far away as possible from covenants. The House sees little difference between demons and pagan gods. After all, their god used to carry a pitchfork.

The House has a fairly simple structure. The Primus rules for life and appoints their own successor. Under the Primus are highly skilled subordinates called exarchs, who oversee House affairs in one or more Tribunals. Their schemes are accomplished by experienced members of the House, older magi who have skilled lieutenants beneath them to oversee their own projects. Below these lieutenants are newly Gauntleted magi. There are no names for the three ranks below exarch, but the House is aware they exist. In theory, the Primus governs with the counsel of all magi who bear their own sigils. This Tremere Council meets every ten years at the Decennial, but it has lacked formal powers since the Schism War. A member of this body is known as a conciliarius, meaning both 'councilor' and 'counselor'. In exchange for obedience and subordination, all members of the House can expect aid, with the degree varying by seniority, the purpose of the project and the wealth of the local House. Aid is usually in the form of loans of vis, books, money or magic items.

Next time: Tremere ranks.

Kellsterik
Mar 30, 2012


Thamyris was a blinded Thracian bard and, according to Greek legend, the first gay man! :eng101:

ThisIsNoZaku
Apr 22, 2013

Pew Pew Pew!


Tasoth posted:

I'm going with a pretentious author voice about all things Japan, purple prose, mechanics that were never fully thought out and historical data that is waaaay off the mark.

Actually, I think I might know.

It's the game where the male player are the women in a Japanese village with no more men, and the female player are a band of wandering ronin who have stumbled upon it.

Edit: I was wrong.

Edit Edit: Or, I was kind of right, and was misremembering the premise I had heard in passing years ago.

ThisIsNoZaku fucked around with this message at 17:38 on Jun 19, 2013

Kellsterik
Mar 30, 2012


This is from back in Mercere, but how do Blood of Heroes characters work as far as their relationship to a specific hero? Is there a template or suggested stats for like, Samson or Gilgamesh descendants? Could you play someone with Odysseus' blood with hyper-cunning and planning skills?

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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Kellsterik posted:

This is from back in Mercere, but how do Blood of Heroes characters work as far as their relationship to a specific hero? Is there a template or suggested stats for like, Samson or Gilgamesh descendants? Could you play someone with Odysseus' blood with hyper-cunning and planning skills?

There is no template for specific heroes - you just get access to Heroic virtues and flaws, which can be used to set up almost anything. So yes, you absolutely can play a supernaturally cunning plotter who is descended from Odysseus.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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Ars Magica 5th Edition: Houses of Hermes: True Lineages

It often seems very strange to other Houses, especially young magi, that young Tremere so voluntarily hand over their time and effort to the schemes of older Tremere. Young Tremere understand that the cohesiveness of the House is its greatest strength. They serve their elders, and in return they are nurtured, learning to acquire and wield power by helping those who have and use it. If a magus is distant from their conciliarius, they likely receive instructions via letter, and when they move to a distant Tribunal, they are usually told to report instead to the senior Tremere of that Tribunal. This usually isn't an exarch, who often cover multiple Tribunals and appoint local advocates. These are known as tribunes, tribal leaders, and it is usual for them to speak and vote on the behalf of younger magi and follow the instructions of the exarch. Little is required of young magi except time, obedience and courage. Their goal is to develop the skills they will need to serve the House later. If they are the senior Tremere in the covenant they live in, they should seek to lead it, but not in any hasty way. They should avoid notice by the powerful among the Church and nobles, but seek influence among lesser nobles and priests.

A young magus' superiors will choose duties such that, except in times of crisis, they do not slow the magus' magical development enough to make them weak compared to other magi - it's generally no more than a single season of work each year. Less if you're skilled. One key duty of all Tremere, however, is the call to arms. In times of crisis, House Tremere rapidly converts itself into an army. It already has a chain of command, mustering points and a supply network. Its members fight in a way coordinated by established doctrine and are usually willing to follow orders that would seem fatal. House Tremere is the core of the Order's army, augmented by more individualistic and undisciplined Houses. Allowances are made for lost messages, but a Tremere magus who knowingly fails to muster is hunted down by the House.

Common duties of young magi include negotiation with local mundanes of power, vis collection from minor but dangerous sites, finding apprentices for superiors, securing resources that do not need heavy defense, finding witnesses for court cases, investigating rumors of resources, investigating the disappearance of Redcaps or minor allies of the House, assisting senior magi in political matters, developing local knowledge of terrain in case the House needs guides, locating ancient battlefields and artifacts for House necromancers, investigating and recruiting local hedge magicians if possible and attending Wizard's Marches. Young magi can expect support in the form of a loan of a moderate sum of silver, four pawns of vis, minor books or magic items, the assistance of a highly skilled but nonmagical servant of the House, such as a poisoner or blacksmith, the use of a debt owed to the House by a minor noble or priest, free passage on House ships or the supply of a team of horses. Typically you are allowed only one form of aid per season. Note that it can take time for the assistance to show up, too - they tend to center around the House mustering points, and senior members are given preference over young magi.

A skilled magus is one who has served the House well for several years and has come to the attention of experience magi and is now trusted with tasks of greater importance and risk. These are respected members of covenants, often with significant influence in their area over lesser nobles and churchmen. They spend more time in service than young magi, but their masters try to balance their current service with their development for future service. Skilled magi may be asked to negotiate with minor nobles and church leaders or powerful hedge magicians, to capture minor magical creatures for sale or use by the House, to collect vis from dangerous sites, to guard money and vis for the foundation of a new House covenant, to distribute the sigils and goods of a dead magus to his filii, to carry the ashes of a dead magus to Coeris, to support the schemes of nobles allied to the House, to investigate rumors or legends of magical sites or to lead small groups of Tremere on dangerous missions, including skirmishing parties in Wizard's Marches. Skilled magi may expect support in the form of large sums of silver, up to 12 pawns of vis, major books, moderately powerful magic items or tame magical animals, the secret service of skilled groups such as bandits or a team of scribes, the assistance of a hedge magician in service to the House, the use of a small ship suitable for piracy or trade, the use of a debt owed the House by a significant noble or an abbot or the hire of a small group of mercenaries, as well as anything a young magus could get. They may have up to two forms of support per season, any one of which may be traded for three forms of lesser support.

Experienced magi are those trusted to act without much supervision. If they live outside House covenants, they are likely to be the House's representative in the area. They deal with emergent problems, and while they work with overall House strategy, they have a lot of freedom when it comes to methods. They have come into their power and are expected to lead those below them. Some specialize in a specific kind of threat, and are used as problem-solvers rather than part of the web of command. The duties of experience Tremere often include negotiation with faeries, major nobles, abbots and bishops, killing or subduing powerful magical beasts, troublesome faeries or mortal armies, negotiation with powerful and united hedge traditions, negotiation with senior Magi of other Houses, investigating and defeating demons, recovering the bodies of missing Tremere magi and exacting vengeance, securing heavily defended resources on behalf of the House, founding new covenants, training apprentices, supervising younger magi, leading Wizard's Marches (particularly if the victim of the crime was Tremere) and advising the exarchate on how best to strengthen the House. Resources available to them include the gift (without expectation of repayment) of large sums of silver or up to four pawns of vis, the loan of major books, powerful magic items or tame magical creatures with lethal powers (and sometimes, the items are made to order), the secret services of highly organized groups such as organized criminal groups, smuggling crews or teams of masons, the assistance of young magi, the use of a warship complete with crew of grogs or the use of a debt owed the House by a minor king or bishop. They may have up to three forms of support each season, any one of which may be traded for three forms of skilled magus support or nine forms of young magus support. So long as they can justify their expenses, they do not need to pay back vis or silver to the House, though they may be expected to offer items of equal worth if they ask often.

The exarchs are senior Tremere in charge of House activities in one or more Tribunals. There are six of them. One oversees the Rhine Tribunal, one the Roman Tribunal, one the Theban and Levant Tribunals (though in time the Levant may become its own exarchate, as its tribune has been given extraordinarily broad power), one oversees the Provencal and Iberian Tribunals, one the Stonehenge, Loch Leglean, Normandy and Hibernian Tribunals and the last the Transylvanian, Novgorod and Greater Alps Tribunals. The exarch speaks for their exarchate to the Primus. Their duties include coordinating the experience magi of their exarchate, detecting Tremere diabolists, engaging in Tribunal-wide plots to replace mortal nobles and ecclesiastical leaders, leading armies to defeat major beasts, faerie armies, nests of hedge wizards or foresworn covenants, acting as the Primus' ambassador to the domus magnae of other Houses in their exarchate, investigating major incidents that harm the House (including attacks by unknown forces), commissioning expeditions into the unknown, selecting the sites for new House covenants and arranging their construction, staffing and stability, officiating the cremation of dead Tremere and regularly reporting to the Primus. They may expect aid in the form of vast gifts of silver, up to 12 pawns of vis, the loan of exceptionally good books or extraordinarily powerful items (often made to order), the secret services of highly skilled groups such as soldiers trained to hunt magi or friendly groups of faeries, the assistance of experienced magi, the use of a small fleet of warships or a moderately sized army or command of any one House ally among the nobles or Church of Europe. They may have up to three forms of aid at a time, which may be traded one for three picks off the experienced list, and so on. Further, each receives an enchanted war banner unique to their exarchate. (At least one is known to spit fire.)

The Primus rules the House from Coeris. The current Prima, Poena, has ruled for two years since the retirement of her predecessor at the last Deccenial. She has been funding research projects, some of which require purpose-built facilities and staff from across the House, especially young magi. Poena particularly loves research that will give battlefield advantages over the Islamic wizards of the Levant. Aside from her, the most important magus in the House is the Legatus, the field commander, who is selected by the Primus. It has been popular ever since the death of the Primus Cercistum during the Schism War for the Primus to avoid battle. Usually, the Legatus lives in Coeris, but transports to a forward base in times of crisis. The Legatus is the Primus' heir, and were the entirety of Coeris to fall to surprise attack, the leadership would then fall to the Exarch of Rome.

The House has two paths of promotion. The first is by experience and politics. The second is by force. The House accepts that those with skill should lead, but knows that decisions cannot be entrusted to people solely due to their power. The usual method of progress is the political one, described above. The alternative, however, is acceptable at any time outside a crisis, when disruption of the chain of command is forbidden. That method is to claim your right to lead by dueling. When dueling with other Tremere, it is considered dishonorable to use vis. To claim the right to be magus by force is known as Claiming the Name, and it's just the Gauntlet. The Tremere Gauntlet is simple: it's a duel. It is all but unheard of for the apprentice to win, though. To do so grants them their sigil immediately. When they lose, they are given a new name, often grander than the one used as an apprentice and chosen by consulting with them beforehand. By preference, the challenge takes place before the local exarch, a Quaesitor and as many Tremere as are conveniently available. If a Tribunal holds an annual Ceremony of Welcome, it's done there. The duel happens when the master or their superiors decides it should, and the magus may ignore any challenge from the apprentice before the appropriate time. (Keeping one overly long, however, gets Quaesitores involved.)

The purpose of the certamen duel is to show off the apprentice's skills. The most senior Tremere present decides if the apprentice graduates, and it's usually a formality, since if the apprentice were not ready, the challenge would not happen. Before the Gauntlet, a birchwood wand is sent from the Primus to the local exarch, who gives it to the master. The master then gives it to the new magus, as their sigil. The young magus then asks their parens to "hold my sigil, and guide me in its prudent use." The parens takes it back and, if they do not hold their own sigil, sends it on up the chain and repeats the request. The conciliarius, whoever they are, then sends the wand to the appropriate exarch.

Claiming the Sigil is the challenge to jump straight to experienced magus. The parens returns the sigil either when they die or when their protege defeats them in certamen. The protege may challenge at a time of their choosing exactly once. If they fail, they may then challenge once at every Decennial. When they win, they are presented with their own talisman to serve as their sigil, and their birchwood wand is sent to their funerary niche, where it will be used to eventually ignite their funeral pyre. A young magus who holds their own sigil is treated as an experienced magus when requesting aid, but is still only given tasks suitable to their abilities, though they are far less likely to be asked to assist skilled magi and are far more likely to be asked for advice and assistance by the exarch over minor matters, to help them earn skill and reputation. They tend to be expected to specialize in some field that the House needs, and are often trusted to work far from support. They are permitted to vote as they wish at Tribunal on trivial matters, without any rancor from their superiors.

Claiming the Tribunal's Dragon Banner is to claim the role of exarch by force. The role is economic and executive, so disruptions are not appreciated. When the exarch ascends to their position, their senior colleagues meet and debate who might be a suitable successor if the exarch were to vanish or die, then agree to a pool of candidates who duel for the right to be heir. The exarch then familiarizes the heir with their plans for the exarchate. The heir serves as exarch if the exarch is lost until the Primus replaces them. The heir also accepts challenges at the Decennial. Any Tremere magus may challenge the exarch to certamen over policies or for their office. The exarch may accept personally or via champion. However, any magus may only challenge the exarch for their role once, and may not do so while the House faces rivals, such as at Tribunal meetings.

Most Tremere do not have much desire to challenge exarchs, and in times of serious division, the House minimizes opportunities of potential foes. Any change of leadership is decisive - a defeated exarch may never challenge for the role again, and must aid the new exarch. The Primus appoints and dismisses exarchs, however, so it challenges the Primus' authority to remove an appointee. Sometimes the Primus just picks the deposed exarch again and punishes the usurper, though they have also historically accepted new exarchs, sent third parties to mediate or replace the exarch, collapsed disputed exarchates entirely into a nearby one or, on one occasion, declared the challenger Orbus and mustered the House to war against them. Even a succesful challenge accepted by the Primus requires ceremonial punishment, to demonstrate the Primus' authority.

Claiming the Sigil of Tremere is the act of becoming Primus by force. Most Primi choose to retire to their work eventually. If a Primus dies or retires, the legatus becomes Primus and selects a new one. At the Decennial, however, all consiliari may duel for the right to assess the competency of the Primus. The victor, known as the secutor, need not then challenge the Primus if they state that their conversations with the Primus indicate an intact and functioning mind. They may challenge the Primus at any time before the next Decennial, as may any Tremere who defeats the secutor at certamen, on any issue. Allies of the Primus often challenge those who defeat the secutor over the issue of whether or not they will challenge the Primus before the next Decennial, to reduce the numbers of potential challengers. The secutor may challenge the Primus as often as they like, though it is considered impolitic to do so more than once per year unless some event renders the Primus inept. Tradition states that those who defeat the secutor may only challenge once per victory over the secutor. Should the secutor die, all interested Tremere gather at the next convenient event (often the secutor's funeral) and duel for the right to be secutor.


That's a cool plot hook.

Next time: Being a Tremere

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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Ars Magica 5th Edition: Houses of Hermes: True Lineages

All Tremere are duelists, on some level. Most try to be good duelists, which means knowing four favored Arts - that's because the other party in a duel can veto the first chosen Art. Tremere was noted for being skilled in Rego and especially Mentem, and many Tremere likewise favor these Arts. They lack direct offensive power, so most Tremere also take as their secondary arts ones that will allow direct violence. Currently, Muto is popular, as are Terram, Animal, Imaginem and Corpus. Tremere Doctrine favors teleportation spells for ease of deployment and retreat, as well as heavy use of necromancy and dream magic. Necromancy has always been a Tremere mainstay, all the way back to Guorna.

A skilled necromancer at the site of a battle or massacre has a lot to play with, especially if it was pagan deaths, since they probably didn't get a consecrated monotheistic burial. In the Schism War, a small group of necromancers lured an entire Diedne covenant into the old battlefield of Kalkriese. The druids did not know that it was the site where sixty thousand Roman legionnaires died as part of the Varius Disaster - until the Tremere called up all sixty thousand and scattered the enemy. That was the largest use of ghost armies that has been demonstrated, though the Primus Cercistum claimed he could call up Hannibal's victims in Italy (some 150,000 troops) or those killed in the storm that destroyed the Roman invasion fleet off Cape Pachynus (100,000 men and 250 ships). Guorna is known to have claimed ability to rouse the dead of Belisarius' attack on Naples. The House encourages young magi to seek out ancient battlefields for this reason. The senior necromancer of the House wears a torc crafted from the teeth of a Scythian chieftain and his warriors, giving him the power to summon 34 ghostly horsemen even while away from their grave sites. The torc was made by the fifth Primus, Kore, the only necromancer ever to be Primus. She spent years afterward hunting for an immense bronze vessel made from the census arrowheads of the Scythian army, in the belief that it would allow her to summon the entire nation of Scythian dead. Kore was, incidentally, the first Primus to be replaced by force, by reason of insanity.

Tremere magi, like their Founder, are often also interested in Animal magic. Tremere found animals fascinating - he was unable to control them politically or via his followers, you see. Tremere magi often employ animals as spies, saboteurs, messengers and agents. Doctrine states that small, swift carnivores are to be preferred. In the Schism War, raptors and wolves saw great use, and in urban areas, dogs and rats are preferred. The House collects and tames magical animals as well, deploying them as siege weapons or fire-and-forget agents in battle or seeking out new creatures to add to Doctrine. They do not, however, have detailed doctrine for magical mounts. It's not possible to grant a mount magic resistance save by extending the Parma over it, which weakens your own Parma. Neither this nor leaving them unprotected is ideal. Magical mounts are effective against mundane forces, but overall House Tremere sees them as glamorous - which, for House Tremere, is an insult. Were they to discover a group of powerful, high Might beasts that could still be tamed and controlled with relative ease, they might revise their beliefs.

Tremere magi often specialize in some role or other. The Doctrine gives a number of roles, and even more are invented each decade. Other roles are filled by outsiders, who can do them better due to the universal focus of Tremere on certamen. (See, you can only have one Magical Focus. And all Tremere have it in certamen. They're great duelists, but pound for pound they aren't quite the equal of other Houses in normal magic.) Architects are Terram specialists who were once used as combat engineers. These days, they're more economically focused, supervising the House's mining efforts and fortifications. They also surreptitiously maintain roads and bridges, and several Transylvanian legends of bridges being built overnight by the Devil are due to their work. Artificers manufacture ritual objects, both magic and mundane. They produce the dragon banners of the House, make reliquaries, repair the ritual tables of the Council, dye the cloaks, craft the sigils and make the magic items that the House would prefer that outsiders not know about. They aren't innovators per se, and they can't match House Verditius, but they are highly practical and pragmatic, and they understand what other Tremere want - both features that are not always found in hired Verditius crafters.

Assessors are diplomats, merchants and spies. They maintain identities that the entire House may share in via use of illusions, and all assessors have the Gentle Gift. In part, they are the source of Transylvanian folktales regarding vampires who work as merchants, travel between cities and return after decades pretending to be their own sons. Disputants are Certamen specialists, though they are not so common as other Houses often expect. The House keeps a few on hand, but tends to prefer that its magi focus on other tasks. Plus, disputants are, as a group, renowned for egomania. The Masters of Auxiliaries train to lead mundane soldiers, often mastering small incapacitating spells that they cast over and over. After all, when masses of mundanes are intermixed, single strike spells make little difference and killing your own men with area attacks is just gauche, if sometimes needed. Their preference is for bursts of incapacitating spells aimed at masses of enemy troops, as well as animal control, because animals are quite clever, really.

Nauarchos are the naval officers of the House, specializing in communication and weather magic. They maintain the House fleet, particularly in the Adriatic and Black Seas, guarding cargo and stopping pirates. They also tend to be quite good at fire suppression and the planning of small fleet actions, though naval warfare is not a significant portion of Tremere Doctrine. Yet, anyway. The Physicians are the healers and longevity ritualists of the House, specializing in medical magic that both does not require vis but is also superior to mundane medicine. They tend to also be necromancers specializing in raising zombies, so while they are trusted and are asked to assess all potential apprentices for health problems before they are taken on, they're kind of disturbing. They also seem to suffer a curse of bad luck, perhaps due to their closeness to Guorna's work, and the physicians have the greatest history of diabolism.

Scouts date back to the Schism War, trained to move through hostile territory, collect information and return safely. In peacetime, they assess situations where only poor intelligence is available, such as when Redcaps go missing. They are explorers, as well, and often are quite good at trapping and capturing beasts. Signalers likewise descend from the Schism War, when a corps of trickster magi were used to feed disinformation to House Diedne's mundane supporters, creating false targets, hiding scouts and confusing enemy signals. In the modern House, the signalers speed communication and often play around with illusions. They seem to be the most cheerful branch of the House.

Now, let's talk about Certamen. It's a peaceful way to resolve disputes, and among militant magi it is less embarrassing to concede a certamen match than to concede in negotiations. Reconsidering your position after losing certamen is not cowardice, after all. Certamen is seen as a sensible way to solve disputes in crisis. It's faster than debate, which is useful when time is a factor, and the outcome is decisive and clear. It lays issues to rest, and the final spell that the winner may cast is a form of military justice on the loser. After it is done, the matter is over. To a Tremere, this satisfies all matters of honor. Further, it serves as a public ritual marking the phases of Tremere life. First they become magi, then self-directing adults via certamen with their parentes. In the same way, they introduce their filii to the House and pass on authority to the next generation.

When two groups disagree, it is common for the leaders of both to duel, and dueling may be used to determine who each leader is. This allows Redcaps challenged to duels to avoid concession by granting leadership to an actual duelist. Tremere magi are also notable for often taking part in certamen for no actual dispute but simply for the love of it. This is known as dueling for love, and it is fought by different standards. Vis is never used in duels for love, even against non-Tremere magi. Some duels for love end at the first solid blow, and the final spell is rarely a harmful one, though between friends it is often humorous or embarrassing. House meetings often include duels for love, allowing magi to test their strength against each other without offense to either side. Plus it makes great entertainment and builds camaraderie.

One particularly famous duelist for love was the tenth century magus Agrippina, who used to send white roses with her challenges. She found ways to shower defeated foes with rose petals over a shocking number of Art combinations, and many serious duelists for love emulate her. Her nickname, Nemesis, has become the vernacular term for a very skilled duelist. However, even a skilled duelist can develop a bad reputation if they use their skills in uncouth manners. It is important to challenge at appropriate times, and how to challenge correctly. Victory by surrender or first blow is common, because it is just vulgar to force your foe to beat you into unconsciousness. Selection of venue, wording of challenge, acceptance or rejection of Arts, choice of final spell, the way the loser faces that spell and your manner after dueling all contribute to your reputation, good or bad. Power demands respect, but self-control brings admiration.

Certamen is fought in a variety of styles, known as schools. Each school has a unique strength and vulnerability, and usually it is impossible to learn more than one school. (Those who can master two are known as harenarius, 'person of sand', and are often less mentally stable than other magi.) However, by studying a school for a single season, any magus can learn to fight in the style of that school, an imperfect imitation. At the start of certamen, each duelist chooses either to fight as a member of a school or in a variety of styles. Fighting as a member of a school allows you to use its most potent techniques, but you can only use that school. Fighting in a variety of styles locks off the most potent technique of your school, but allows you to use the lesser styles of many schools, choosing which you plan to use round to round. Magi belong to the school of their parens. Those who were not trained in certamen as apprentices may join a school by studying under a member of that school for one season.

The Gladiator School or School of the Swordsman is the style invented by the Founder Tremere, and the style that most magi are familiar with. It is balanced and simple, with neither strength nor weakness. Rumors persist of secret techniques that allow dedicated followers of the Gladiator to spend vis to greater effect, but House Tremere treats these rumors as an attack on their integrity. After all, loss of faith in the certamen system would disadvantage the House. The illusions used by Gladiator duelists tend to be humaniform and heavily influenced by the magus' sigil.

The Andabatus School or School of the Blind-Fighter favors savage, chaotic attacks to end duels quickly, while accepting strikes on themselves. Their finesse improves their attack greatly, but greatly lowers their defense. Those who fight in the style of the andabata get a smaller bonus but the same penalty as a full member of the school. The shared illusions of the Andabatus School churn and lose focus, because their technique is instinctual, imprecise and assumes they will be hit.

The Bestiarus School or School of Beasts is exclusive to House Bjornaer, allowing them to channel their Heartbeast rather than their finesse with magic when they duel with Muto magic or using their own bodies. Muto Corpus and Muto Animal duels, especially, allow them to use this power to defend themselves. Those Bjornaer who merely dabble in the Bestiarus technique may only use their Heartbeast to defend themselves somewhat.

Next time: More Certamen

Kellsterik
Mar 30, 2012


How often do Tremere defeat their parens and get their sigils back? Is it something everyone is expected to do at some point or a rare achievement?

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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Kellsterik posted:

How often do Tremere defeat their parens and get their sigils back? Is it something everyone is expected to do at some point or a rare achievement?

I'd call it around 50/50. It's not especially rare but there's no shame in not doing it.

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Houses of Hermes: True Lineages

The Bone-biting School is based on the magic of certain Irish bards and was invented by House Diedne. It allows a magus to injure themselves to resist fatigue or to strengthen their attacks. The full power of the School was lost in the Schism War. Those who fight in its style, however, may harm themselves (rather painfully, really) in order to resist fatigue damage or strengthen their attacks. Traditionally, this is done by biting the tip of the left thumb down to the bone. In 1220, few practice Bone-biting and prefer to bite their tongues instead. Accidental tongue bites can happen in duels, after all, and doesn't look intentional. It is very hard to hide what you're doing, however, if you do it more than once because the damage is reflected in the shared illusion with images of blood and fire.

The Charon Technique has no full school - just a style to fight in. A magus who fights in the style of Charon may cast two spells, not one, at the end of the duel. The first is cast silently and without gestures in an earlier round, requiring massive concentration to maintain until the duelist believes the final round has arrived. If the duelist is right, the spell travels along the arcane connection of the duel along with the normal winner's spell. Using the trick is probably a breach of the Peripheral Code but since it's only appeared very recently, no Tribunal has actually considered it. Rumor has it that there is a School of Charon whose members can cast many spells on those they defeat.

The Essedarius School or School of the Charioteer focuses on flashy and intimidating techniques, subduing foes psychologically. They may choose after attacking to deal no damage but instead to create the illusion of a powerful and dreadful attack that failed by merest chance. The intention is to frighten the foe into surrender. Magi who fight in the style of the essedarius may do the same, but are unable to take advantage of the attacks of past rounds.

The Gladiatrix School or School of the Swordswoman uses a chessboard metaphor, with phantoms rising from the squares to fight each other. The phantoms need not correspond to the pieces of either mundane or Tremere chess. These matches are always spectacular to watch and give insights into the mental iconography of the players. Certamen is fought on a chessboard either if the duelists agree in advance to do so or if the gladiatrix chooses to, rather than deal damage, force that illusion onto the battle. Once the chessboard exists, the gladiatrix may choose to forego damage in order to strike at a piece representing an idea, concept or value of the foe. If the foe does not protect themselves well enough, the gladiatrix may use this attack to intuit their emotional reaction if that concept, idea or value was threatened. This allows them to gauge the minds of their rivals. Those who fight in the style of the Gladiatrix may force the field into the chessboard motif but may not read their foe's opinions. Any magus who has studied to fight in the style of the Gladiator School may fight in the style of the Gladiatrix without further training. Most believe this is because Tremere was a master of games. Some members of the Gladiatrix School believe they can develop a method of team certamen based on chess, and certainly the Folk Dancer tradition has produced a form of dance-battle based on chess which would easily translate to the certamen ritual, but the technique has yet to be demonstrated. The dancers would provide a bonus equivalent to that of spending vis.



The Hoplomachus School or School of the Hoplite sacrifices speed for defense. They may never win initiative in certamen save against another hoplomachus, and they may choose to weaken their attacks to improve their defense greatly. They may even choose to forgo attacking at all for a massive defense boost. Those who fight in the style of the hoplomachus may only choose to forgo attacking for a smaller defense boost. The half of the shared illusion controlled by the hoplomachus tends to be slow but annoyingly persistent and hard to damage.

The Laquerius School or School of the Noose prefers to bind the foe over time. In any round, the laquerius may choose to reduce their defenses. If they strike in that round, they do no damage but instead lower the foe's defense for the rest of the duel. This is marked in the shared illusion as a tether marked by the sigil of the laquerius. Magi who fight in the style of the laquerius may do the same, but the penalty they inflict lasts only a single round.

The Provocator School or School of Challengers sacrifice speed for protection. They may choose to penalize their initiative in order to increase their defense for the rest of the duel. Many provocators have powerful Parma Magica and do not even try to win initiative. Those who fight in the style of the provocator must gain initiative. When they do, they lose it the following round but gain a resistance to damage for that round. After that round, they regain the initiative. The shared illusions of provocators tend to be annoying, but that may be more due to the fact that most provocators like to be flippant and witty while dueling. The school is somewhat more organized than most others and highly social. They love dodging attacks and quipping at foes.

The Pumilius School or School of Amusing Dwarfs is considered offensive by some Tremere. The style has existed for some two centuries, though, and many Tremere believe that, in some more dignified way, its core movement is acceptable in polite society. Certainly the Provocators find it amusing. The pumilius may decline to do damage after attacking, choosing instead to inject a humorous image into the shared illusion. If the opponent cannot maintain their concentration, they are so amused that they lose either the chance to attack or to defend the next round. They get to choose which. This can be made harder if the pumilius has researched what the foe finds funny. The pumilius' shared illusion tends to demonstrate their lack of concern for the duel's outcome. Those fighting in the style of the pumilius may project an image in the same way, but it is less vibrant and so easier to ignore.

The Retiarus School or School of the Fisherman strikes quickly and seeks to evade damage. They may boost their initiative with their finesse, at the cost of a penalty to attack for three rounds. Any retiarius who does not have the initiative may claim it by striking a blow and declining to deal damage. Those fighting in the style of the retiarus may, instead, strike a blow and decline to deal damage in order to force a reroll of initiative. The shared illusions of the retiarus are swift, flickering things that dance away from blows and strike with feathery attacks that wear down the foe slowly.

The Saggitarius Technique or Technique of the Archer is not accepted by Tremere as legitimate. It has no school, and it was designed by a Merinita magus to humiliate a Tremere rival. When using this technique, the magus may greatly boost their attack and greatly lower their defense. However, regardless of the outcome, the attack can only do the least possible damage. It creates a tiny attack based on the user's sigil, and is extremely effective for winning duels to first blow...and nothing else. Many Tremere refuse to use it and challenge its legitimacy in legal contexts.

The Scissor School or School of the Carvers uses cripplingly deep attacks. A scissor may choose not to attack in a round in order to make an especially damaging attack the next round. Those fighting in the style of the scissor do the same, but their attack is slightly less brutal.

The Velitus School or School of the Spear is based on wearing down resistance early. A velitus may strike and decline to do damage in order to reduce the foe's resistance to damage for the rest of the duel. This can get bad enough that their resistance actually becomes negative, causing increased damage. Those fighting in the style of the velitus may do the same, but less effectively and cannot go into the negatives. These attacks in the shared illusion vary by the duelist's sigil, but often appear as long cylinders piercing the foe's champion.

Next time: Vexillations and miscellanea.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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Ars Magica 5th Edition: Houses of Hermes: True Lineages



Some vexillations do not disband, because the tasks they were made for cannot end. These encourage young Tremere to become worthy inheritors of the task. The Abyssal Bearer Vexillation has the task of ensuring that no Tremere magus is left unburied. The House likes the emotional appeal and, more importantly, wants to be sure that its ghosts do not ever fall into enemy hands. This vexillation has four members, each the lineal descendent, eldest student to eldest student, of the four magi who bore Tremere's coffin into the Gate of Eurydice. They have many demands on their time and aren't all good detectives, so they often seek the help of others. Since the first Primus, Albanus, was one of Tremere's coffin bearers and was his eldest student, the leader of the vexillation is the descendent, eldest student to eldest student, from the Founder. Currently, she is a rather young magus who finds her job very arduous.

The Burning Acorn Vexillation has the duty of discovering the whereabouts of the lost leaders of House Diedne. Arguably they have had the least success of any vexillation, but that doesn't bother them. They are explorers, heading into unknown territory and equipped for hostile magic. They often collaborate with Houses Merinita and Mercere, and really, they'd be quite surprised if they ever actually found signs of Diedne, but they're finding so much else that the House would like them to keep going. They have developed a breed of fae horse that can see in darkness and doesn't react badly to Gifted riders. The line doesn't quite breed true and has a vicious temper, but is a rare exception to the House's disapproval of mounts. The current leader of the vexillation is the retired former Primus Umno, giving it some prestige.

The Cold Iron Vexillation is tasked to settle disputes with faeries in a way that helps the House. Each member of it has faerie blood, is a competent soldier and a skilled diplomat. They maintain a small force of auxiliaries to assist them in fighting faeries. Their leader is always a masked figure known as the Epicurean. The mask has presumably changed bearers over time, but in Arcadia, in a very real sense, the Epicurean is a continuing entity.

Lastly, the Broken Mirror Vexillation has the job of investigating suspected diabolism, treason and cowardice. They were founded by the first Primus, Albanus, to ensure that the House would not fracture after Tremere's retirement. Its members are ruthless, unflinchingly violent and impeccably polite. The vexillation is generally led by whichever most senior Tremere has been accepted by House Guernicus as a quaesitor.

And, finishing up, some particular things that are generally unique to Tremere. The Transylvanian Tribunal sometimes produces dhampir. See, there's a kind of faerie vampire that exists to, uh...to rape women, especially the dead man's former wife. This is real folklore and it is mega creepy and gross. Sometimes, they sire children. These children are the dhampir. Most dhampire hate vampires due to the nature of their birth. However, when they die, unless special rituals are done, they become vampires. Most dhampir know this and take precautions. Dhampir are otherwise similar to most fae-bloods, with slow aging, Second Sight and an innate knack for faerie lore. A dhampir can have the Gift, but House Tremere forbids them to be taught, since no one wants a vampire magus. No one. It happened once. They don't want it to happen again. Yes, vampires can't use Hermetic magic, but it was just a bad time all around.

The Folk Dancers are a very minor hedge tradition that can, by gathering as a troupe, perform a several-hour dance that produces magical effects. Most troupes only know a handful of magical dances and can't make new ones. The most popular is a harvest blessing that, done correctly, reduces the severity of storms in the area for a season. A very few folk dancers know how to trap ghosts with their dances. However, a folk dancer cannot tell automatically if their spell worked or failed unless they obviously hosed up. All folk dancer PCs know three dances.

The Leadworkers are the remnants of the Aida cult in House Tremere, a sort of necromancy named because of their traditional use of lead katedesmoi. A katedesmos is a sort of curse tablet carved with a name. Occasionally, figures known as kolossoi are used instead. Leadworkers of Tremere have lost most of their knowledge of the ancient magic, but have kept two tricks. First, a katedesmos can create an arcane connection either to a ghost or to any magical beast or spirit able to recognize its own name. Second, an arcane connection made out of a body part may be made part of a kolossos, fixing it permanently. Both of these require no particular study, vis or effort - they just work.

Last are the Nyktophylax, the night guards, who served as sentries in the Schism War. Their Sun-duration magic, rather than ending at sunrise or sunset, ends at noon or midnight. That's it. That's their trick.

The End!

Choose: Choices are: more depth on Covenants (Covenants), the Societates Houses (Houses of Hermes: Societates), academic life (Art and Academe), Germany (Guardians of the Forests: The Rhine Tribunal), more depth on grogs (Grogs) or Hungary and Bulgaria (Against the Dark: The Transylvanian Tribunal).

Druggeddwarf
Nov 9, 2011

My first attack must ALWAYS be a charge!


Kagematsu - A roleplaying game by Danielle Lewon. Part 1: Forward, the book, and introducions. Also titties

Foreward

Oh boy.

Hello, Iím druggeddwarf, and I am not a great writer. My spelling is atrocious, I have the grammar of a twelve year old, and I will be writing this while heavily under the influence (of orange juice). I have a terrible habit of taking everything personally, and I make rash judgements based on first impressions about people and things that are usually wrong. And my first impression of this game, is that I hate it. I hate it with a passion. However, that isnít what you people want to come here and read about. You arenít blazing through this just to hear some random guy on the internet rant on about how this book deserves to burn in hell (which it does by the way). You people want a fair and simple analysis of the rules system, the setting, and the crazy amount of dice involved.

So I am going to do my best to give you that. I will try my fullest to write up an almost non-judgemental review of what my friends like to call Ďthe roleplaying game where you gently caress a man to save a villageí. I will throw all my anger aside and try and give you what you want.

And I will probably fail. But at least I warned you.

What is Kagematsu

So diving straight into the physical book itself, letís take a look at the back

From the blurb of the book posted:

Iis Japan 1572, the end of the Senguko period of history. Like many transitions of power the country is filled with strife, warring factions pulling any able bodied men into war, leaving villages populated by only women, children and old men.
Now a small, nearly indefensible village is living under the horror of a dangerous threat that casts its long shadow over the village. Without a defender, its people are almost certainly doomed.
Enter Kagematsu, a wayward ronin fleeing a troubled past. Here is a defender for the village, if only he can be swayed from his meandering course. So it is that several young women conspire among themselves to win his affections and steer him to their causeÖ

Kagematsu is a game for three to six players who will do their very best to seduce or charm a lonely wandering ronin into saving their village from a ĎThreatí by either showing him their boobs or saying Kawaii a lot. The system, at first glance, sounds like a fun, silly, anime-tastic romp through a unique era in Japanís history, but do not be fooled. By the time youíve seen the Introduction of the book, you will know that Danielle Lewon means serious Japanese village girl business.
The book itself is, paper-wise, fairly good quality


All images stolen from Cream Alien Games, the publishers

Although only 40 pages long, it seems to be fairly sturdy, and the soft cover feels like something textbooks are made out of. The artwork, (which I implore you to take note that it doesnít have the english version of the title), on the cover is quite pretty, if a little misleading. Especially as even though this is a game made for english roleplayers, it translates the title into funky japanese text just to gently caress with you, Or so your friends can feek super hip when you go to the game store and they say: ďOh, you donít know what this is? This is Kagematsu, itís very indie dear, youíve probably never heard of it.Ē

What kind of senseless designer would do something so drat irritating on the front cover of this bloody...
[/quote=From the first page]
Cover design by Luke Crane[/quote]
Ah.

Someday, sometime in the future, I will review Burning Wheel, the pre-cursor to Mouseguard, and you will truly see the darkness that is Luke Crane.

Back to the book, it comes with a sweet little silklike string attached to it, that connects it with the games own version of a GM screen

Also stolen from Cream Alien Games

For running the game, itís bloody essential. True the book is only 40 pages, but with a neat little board in front of you telling you which one of the village women to bang or not to bang, you can concentrate less on the rules and more about how much you hate this stupid ga-

Oh, sorry. I went off on one there. Back in room DD, back in the room.

The silk tie can easily be removed (or kept as a bookmark if youíre into that sort of thing) or turned into part of a headdress to make all your friends jealous. Now that is style I can live with.
The art of the book is sparse, but a welcome addition. Thereís a cool katana in the corners of some pages, and more of the japanese writing (is it Kanji? Iím not very well versed and donít want to embarrass myself) scattered about. Layout wise, the book is stupidly easy and pleasant to read and the examples of play really help give the player a sense of what they are getting themselves into. Whether they WANT to get into it is another matter entirely.

Donít be fooled, this guy is an rear end in a top hat

Right. Time to jump in head first. Letís see what the fuss is about

Introduction, Setting, and Gameplay
Now, I am not going to say this book is pretentious (well, Iím going to try not to), but sometimes, just sometimes, Iím not quite sure what it is that itís asking of me. Maybe if you guys took at look at the contents of the first page, youíll be able to give it a better judgement than I ever could:

Literally the first words you read posted:

Shame. Honour. Love.
Individually defined human emotions. Intangible human
forces that can direct our lives. You might be able to recite
the dictionary definition of any of these words but what do
they really mean to you?
I believe that everyone truly has their own way of defining
them, expressed in their own actions and reactions to others.
Why canít I feel comfortable like so many other women in a
low-cut shirt? Is it my personal honor or shame at my
dťcolletage?
Why do I see my best friend as shameful when she leaves
engagement ring ads lying around so her boyfriend sees
them? Does a ring on her finger mean love to her?
Why do people stay in abusive relationships? Is ďbecause he
loves meĒ a good enough reason?
Think about the first question again, how do you define
shame, honor and love in your life?
This is the principle behind Kagematsu.
These words will either make you go out and buy the game right the gently caress now, or shutdown your computer and crawl into your bed, wallowing at the death of roleplaying as you know it. Thatís one thing Kagematsu has going for it - It knows its audience.

It goes on to explain that the game is a place where you Ďexploreí your raw feelings of shame, honour, and love, with some culturally ingrained restraint and a sense of chivalry (their words, not mine, Iím not that verbose). So it picks an era of history where women were subservient to their men and tells you to have fun with that. Thanks Ms Lewon.

The setting is pretty much the blurb with an extra line stating that its a fast paced game for 4 to six players, and that itís a one shot. Far more importantly is what they say for everyoneís fabled section, ĎWhat is a roleplaying gameí.

What is a roleplaying game? posted:

et aside assumptions you may have about role-playing
games. Donít second guess yourself. Place your trust in the
text and rules in this book and youíll have a good time
creating a dramatic and memorable story of feudal Japan
with your friends over the course of a few hours
You know, I could talk till the cows come home about what I hate about this game, but kudos to them for just basically saying ĎThis Is Not DnD Stop Thinking Like That And Just Have Funí. Thereís no long twelve page spread about the ins and outs of Elfgame, nor is there a sense that theyíre trying to be super edgy. Just read the rules, and play. Itís quite refreshing.

Gameplay section time! the game has three parts: the Courtship (oh god), the Confrontation (where you meet the Monster of the Week) and the Conclusion (where everyone pretends they enjoyed being useless). You spend the courtship trying to basically charm Kagematsu using their wily womanly ways so he helps them beat the Monster of the week in the Confrontation stage. Because Kagematsu, the ladiesí best chance at getting though the threat alive, pretty much doesnít give a poo poo.

By occasionally cleaning his feet and flashing his boobs, you convince Kagematsu that he wants to save the village, and will go kick the living poo poo out of whatever it was that was getting in their way. He will return, declare which one of the women he wants to bang the most, and they will have a happily ever after scene together. How romantic.

At the beginning of the game, the players will create the vilage as they see it - giving it a river, maybe a wall, put it at the bottom of a snowy mountain, its up to them. The same thing carries with creating the Threat - it can be supernatural, like a water demon or the Great Sage Equal To Heaven being a dick, or it can be bandits, wolves, an approaching army, that sort of thing. As long as it keeps with the setting, itís all gravy.

I think I will take a break for now, stop it all here. See you guys next week for when I go into character creation, and how utterly silly the dice mechanic in this game is.

Oh, and I almost forgot. There is one golden rule in every single game of Kagematsu: He must be played by a woman.

Benagain
Oct 10, 2007

I WILL DERAIL ANY THREAD TO DEFEND PEOPLE WHO CHEAT ON THEIR SPOUSES BECAUSE I THINK THEY CAN DO NO WRONG. DO NOT LISTEN TO ME. I AM FUCKING STUPID.


Fun Shoe

Societates, please.

Baofu
Jun 15, 2007



Am I understanding right that Kagematsu is basically a Harlequin romance novel set in Sengoku era Japan?

AmiYumi
Oct 10, 2005

I FORGOT TO HAIL KING TORG


Druggeddwarf posted:

There is one golden rule in every single game of Kagematsu: He must be played by a woman.
No wonder I've never heard of this game; where the gently caress would you demo it?

"Now recruiting female gamers to pretend to be a man being seduced by a table of greasy elfgamin' dudes who are all pretending to be women! Please show up alone, without informing friends or family beforehand."

HitTheTargets
Mar 3, 2006

I came here to laugh at you.


The hilarious thing is that if you update the setting by a couple hundred years, hey presto, it's half of all anime! Maid RPG would be proud.

That Old Tree
Jun 23, 2012

nah




I fear what their guts may look like, but rules for building a village and the monster that threatens it sound really enticing.

For the most part I really liked the start of your write up, DruggedDwarf, but I think you talked too much about yourself without actually being funny.

Bitchtits McGee
Jul 1, 2011


Druggeddwarf posted:

Oh, and I almost forgot. There is one golden rule in every single game of Kagematsu: He must be played by a woman.

Heeeeere we go.

Glazius
Jul 22, 2007

Hail all those who are able,
any mouse can,
any mouse will,
but the Guard prevail.



Clapping Larry

Druggeddwarf posted:

There is one golden rule in every single game of Kagematsu: He must be played by a woman.

Yeah, this is one of those games that's intended to take you to a different place, psychologically. They're not my bag, but I'm always interested in seeing them written up.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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Ars Magica 5th Edition: Houses of Hermes: Societates

House Flambeau has, at last count, 114 members. Traditionally, they are spread most commonly in the Iberian, Provenal and Normandy Tribunals, but they travel widely and there are Flambeau everywhere. Recently, they have been getting more and more common in the Novgorod, Theban and Levant Tribunals. Their Primus is Garus, an aging former mercenary and tournament champion and a leading member of the milites, a faction of Flambeau that promotes chivalry and service to the Order. Their domus magna is the castle Castra Solis in the Provencal Tribunal. Their motto has, since the Schism War, been 'Ad mortem incurramus' - Unto death, let us charge. Their symbol is the hourglass, symbolizing the fleeting span of a mortal life and the timelessness of a legendary deed.

House Flambeau is a loose fraternity of magi drawn together by warlike nature and love of adventure. Other magi often consider them an unruly rabble that must be controlled, but their courage and fighting skill have helped the Order through its worst crises. They see themselves as magical warriors, and while combat may not be their reason for existence, they all are prepared for it. Some believe themselves the Hermetic parallel to knights, elite warriors defending the weak and upholding justice. Like knights, they tend to bravado. Most magi think of fire magic when they think of Flambeau, and certainly the Founder Flambeau was the first and most memorable master of Ignem. Fire magic remains popular with them, but it is by no means the only specialty of the House. The House believes that magic is meant to be used, and they admire achievement above all else, with each magus following their own path to glory - by combat, perhaps, or by politics or even by writing a book that will last forever.

Flambeau the Founder is an obscure figure, who left few writings, partly because he was for much of his life illiterate and always uncomfortable with letters. What is known comes from the memoirs of his filii and the few surviving letters that he dictated to them. Details such as his exact age, birthplace and even his Christian name are lost. It is known that he was from some petty noble family in Gascony, probably around 715 AD. His estate was invaded by Moors under Emir abd Al Raman, whose army crossed the Pyrenees into France in 732. The Frankish lord Charles Martel fought them back at the Battle of Tours in late 732, but before then the Moors cut a swath of destruction in their path. Their outriders burned the estate down and slew Flambeau's kin. Flambeau was shot and left for dead, but the serfs found him and brought him back to health as best they could, though his wound festered and he came down with fever.

The peasants brought Flambeau to a hermit for healing: the wizard Laberius, descended from the Roman cult of Mithras. Laberius saw the potential in Flambeau immediately, nursed him back to health and made him an apprentice. Flambeau proved a skilled but willful pupil, chafing under the pagan mysticism of Laberius and constantly trying to modify the spells so he need not call on pagan gods. In the meantime, Laberius saw a chance to become a court wizard by helping fight the Moors. The Franks rejected his overtures, so he approached the Kingdom of Asturias in Spain, where he was invited to the court of a lesser cousin of the king. Laberius and Flambeau served at their lord's side, even fighting alongside him in battle in the early days of the Reconquista. With Laberius' magic, his lord enjoyed great success against the Moors, and by the third year of campaign, their foes suspected magic. They assembled a group of five or six sahirs to hunt down Laberius, who destroyed the wizard and his patron in ambush. Only Flambeau escaped with his life, with all the others falling to the jinn serving the sahirs.

Flambeau swore to avenge his master, seeking another of Laberius' magical tradition to finish his studies. However, the few wizards he met were outright hostile to him. At last, he went into hiding in a cave in the French side of the Pyrenees, continuing his study alone by trial and error, adapting the firelighting spell that Laberius had taught him to be more and more powerful. After five years, he had perfected a single, potent spell similar to the Hermetic Pilum of Fire. It was then that he adopted the name Flambeau and returned to Iberia to avenge his master's death. Flambeau managed to hunt down three of the sahirs who had killed Liberius, but the others fled. After facing a number of Infernal jinn, Flambeau was convinced that all sahir were devil summoners, and he attacked them wherever he found them. He'd killed a dozen and become one of the most feared wizards in Europe by the time Trianoma invited him to join the Order.

At first, Flambeau was skeptical. He had a deep distrust for wizards, even those of his own tradition, and didn't believe Trianoma's alliance would last. After she demonstrated the power of her Parma Magica, however, he realized he'd be at a great disadvantage if he didn't learn it. He agreed to go to Durenmar and listen to Bonisagus and the other Founders. Trianoma asked if she could extend the Parma over him before he met any wizards. She claimed it was to protect him from treachery, but it also protected him from the Gift, and to Flambeau's surprise, he found the other wizards likable and trustworthy. He came to believe in the idea of the Order as a league of honorable wizards who could end the treachery and petty rivalry so common among Europe's magicians. He hopes to make the order into a military alliance able to crush the Order of Suleiman he claimed existed among Islamic wizards.

Like the other Founders, Flambeau made some contributions to Hermetic theory. His accomplishment of inventing a single original spell showed that he had more lab talent than his violent reputation suggested, but his contributions were modest compared to some of the others. He was more interested in application than theory, and soon invented many new spells, expanding his repertoire immensely. Later, he spent years hunting for ways to defeat the Parma, so that the Order would be prepared should its secret fall into enemy hands, pioneering the study of penetrating magical resistance. However, his lasting contributions were political, not magical. To expand the new alliance, he traveled throughout what would become the Provencal and Normandy Tribunals, recruiting as many wizards as he could find. He proved an able negotiator, as his reputation was enough to make most wizards want to talk instead of fight, and after that he was charismatic and persuasive. His enthusiasm was contagious, and while he had only two apprentices of his own, his House grew rapidly via recruitment.

When the Order was young and a mere few dozen magi, there seemed a risk that non-Hermetic wizards might organize to resist it. Through diplomacy, intimidation and a few well-chosen fights, Flambeau worked to destroy outside threats. Together, he and his followers founded the covenant Val-Negra in the Pyrenees, chosen for its strategic location against the Iberian sahirs. Over time, this strength of location became less important to Flambeau as he shifted his attention from IBeria to helping build and strengthen the Order. He had balked at the early Hermetic Oath, for he was concerned that if he swore it, his enemies could escape him by joining the Order themselves. At the time of the First Tribunal, it had not been clear how the Oath would be enforced, for Guernicus had not yet become the first Quaesitor, and neither certamen nor the Peripheral Code existed. Flambeau had dedicated his adult life to fighting the Iberian Moors and their wizards, and he firmly believed that wizards had deep-seated enmities, and that it was naive to expect those to be put aside.



Flambeau argued that wizards needed the right to violence. He gave a number of hypothetical situations in which one wizard could bully, blackmail or torment another without breaking the Code. He argued that if the law forbade vengeance, wickedness woulf flourish and honor would be made outlaw. Several Founders opposed him, especially Guernicus, who feared that legalized Wizard's War would undermine the peace of the Order. The matter was finally settled in a famous debate, in which Flambeau pointed out that Guernicus himself had been forced to avenge his fallen master. Without Wizard's War, Flambeau would be denied that chance. Many of the Founders knew firsthand the atrocities wizards did to each other, so they finally approved of adding the Wizard's War to the Code.

Flambeau expected Wizard's War to be a sort of trial by combat, an honorable and open battle. The legal concept, however, evolved differently than he expected, as we'll get into in a bit. He himself never actually used the Wizard's War. His sworn foes, the sahirs, did not join the Order until over a century after his death. In the meantime, he had two apprentices. The first was a Basque child he named Michel in honor of the archangel Michael. He found the best tutors he could to teach the boy Latin and the Artes Liberales, and made it a point to give the boy a firm and balanced grounding in the Hermetic Arts. Michel accompanied Flambeau throughout Europe, learning diplomacy at his master's side. Flambeau had high hopes for the boy as his successor, but after Michel's Gauntlet, he changed his name to Apromor and the two grew apart, having many disagreements. Though Apromor would eventually become the first Primus after Flambeau, he made many changes, few of which his master would have approved of.

The second apprentice was trained in what seems to have been a reaction to the disappointment of Apromor. She was a Frankish girl named Elaine, and Flambeau kept much tighter control of her education and training, though he still relied on tutors for her Latin and literacy. He made sure she was exposed to the Church's moral teachings, and trained her primarily in fire magic, though he gave her plenty of time to read books on other topics. As a result, she followed his example more closely than Apromor, dedicating her career to service to the Order as both a Hoplite and as the author of several books that remain popular authorities on their topics to this day. Elaine trained four apprentices and eventually earned the title of Archmage. She was never very active politically, but her influence on House Flambeau was far-reaching, as she instilled Flambeau's sense of honor and commitment to the Order into her filii. She is also credited as the first intellectual leader of the House, with her insightful writings on magic theory and philosophy showing that Flambeau magi could be interested in more than merely blasting things with fire.

Flambeau's Arts outside of Ignem were never especially strong, and his weak Longevity Ritual had him old and frail by the year 820. One morning in the spring of that year, he left Val-Negra alone. What happened next, no one knows. Some magi, including Apromor, believed he sought to meet with the sahirs. Opinions are divided as to whether he sought death in battle or, as Apromor suspected, that he was tired of fighting and sought peace. Whatever his intentions, Flambeau never returned, leading Apromor and others to conclude that the sahirs killed him. Other magi believe that Flambeau retired from magic and joined a monastery to live out the last of his days in quiet devotion. Flambeau was always a devout Christian, zealous in youth and more pious and contemplative in old age. Many who knew him, including Elaine, believe that he would not have sought the sahirs and feel the monastery story was more persuasive.

Apromor led House Flambeau on a rather different course than Flambeau had. He was a diplomat and strategist, and he believed that the Order was already well-established and that the need for defense against threats was diminishing. However, he felt that the consolidation of power by Houses Tremere and Tytalus was a sign of internal rivalries growing. He made strong moves to strengthen House Flambeau against political competition. One of his major initiatives was continuing Flambeau's campaign of recruiting non-Hermetic magi, changing from Flambeau's more Christian stance to one that was less...call it disrespectful of pagan wizards. Apromor didn't like that many left the House due to Flambeau's devout nature and watned to keep them. He encouraged Flambeau magi to work with the Mercere magus Priamitus to reconstruct the Roman Cult of Mercury, though he didn't personally participate, and as a result, even today there are more Mercurian magi in the House than is normal. Apromor also deviated from Flambeau's devotion to Ignem. By all accounts, his understanding of the Arts was much broader, and while he was never as potent a fire magus, he began to experiment with other forms of attack, eventually settling on Perdo as his favored Technique. He described his style as more 'subtle' than Flambeau's, by which he mean that it was more precise and less obtrusive.

Members of House Flambeau generally feel that the Schism War was both justified and necessary, and usually regard those who fought against Diedne as heroes, overlooking House Flambeau's role in the lawlessness leading up to the War. There had never been much love between Houses Diedne and Flambeau. Flambeau himself was not fond of pagans and often spoke out against House Diedne for its active promotion of non-Christian religion. When Apromor began active recruitment of pagans, he mostly recruited those of Roman descent, who had long rivalries with the druids. After the corruption of Tytalus, suspicions were running high and some magi suspected House Diedne of atrocities like human sacrifice. When they used their political power to block investigations of their covenants, many Flambeau decided to take matters into their own hands, declaring Wizard's War so that they could raid Diedne covenants and search for clues to potential diabolism. The Diedne magi defended themselves, leading to deaths on both sides. The conflict escalated as members of each House got involved to avenge the dead, and in many cases, magi abandoned the pretexts of legality and simply attacked without warning.

Next time: More Flambeau history.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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Ars Magica 5th Edition: Houses of Hermes: Societates

Magi of other Houses were drawn into the conflict. When the Primus Cercistum of Tremere declared war on Diedne and called for the Order's aid, the Primus Entisimon of Flambeau was the first to answer, rallying his House with a famous speech at Val-Negra. Until then, there had been those in the House that called for restraint and peace. Some had even spoken passionately at Tribunals to urge the House to preserve the peace of the Founders, or worked to escort Quaesitores into the areas of conflict. But even the most peace-devoted of Flambeau magi stopped short of using force to stop the troublemakers in their own House. After Entisimon took a side, they were shouted down, and at least one was slain in Wizard's War by a fellow Flambeau who considered the peace advocate a collaborator with the enemy.

Though House Flambeau enjoyed early success, House Diedne soon organized and began to inflict substantial losses. House Flambeau lacked the discipline, command structure and logistics to wage full-scale war, and in realizing this, some magi allied themselves to Tremere covenants and placed themselves under Tremere command. Others realized they could succeed on their own if they improved their tactics and strategy. Some elder Flambeau were veterans of campaigns against the Moors of Iberia and knew how to support each other in battle. They gathered young magi and taught them to fight as coordinated units. These war-bands swore oaths of brotherhood and mutual defense, seeing themselves as direct analogues of mundane knights - elite warriors sworn to honor and service. They came to be known as milites, 'knights', because of their oaths and code of conduct. They fought in teams of three to four, accompanied by grogs, and had enough discipline to use advance scouts and flank and rear guards. They rarely charged headlong into ambushes, and suffered fewer losses than the rest of the House, fighting more succesfully and thus swelling their numbers. When Entisimon attempted to implement a grand strategy for the Schism War, the milites freely ignored him and conducted the war as they thought best. They emerged with almost a quarter of the House as members and have been gradually gaining numbers ever sence.

After the defeat of Diedne, magi turned their attentions to the spoils, the rich vis sources formerly owned by Diedne covenants, especially in Brittany. Flambeau veterans saw themselves and House Tremere as having borne the brunt of the combat and believed that they should thus be entitled to the brunt of the spoils. House Tytalus disagreed, believing the prize should go to whoever was strong and clever enough to win it. House Flambeau saw the Tytalus as ruthless opportunists, falsely claiming land and vis they had not earned, power that should be Flambeau's by right of conquest. They resisted Tytalus claims with every means they could - legal complaints, certamen and even Wizard's War. House Tytalus intensified the conflict, and before long the dispute over territory became an ideological one. House Flambeau painted the Tytalus as contemptible parasites and scoundrels, while House Tytalus saw the Flambeau as invaders in their homeland. The Normandy Tribunal was unable to contain their conflict, and it seemed there might be another war on the heels of the Schism. In the end, it was House Flambeau that ended things. Led by the milites, they insisted on the restoration of law and order, bringing the more violent Flambeau to heel and, at the Grand Tribunal of 1063, negotiating a truce. Special Tribunals were held to divide the disputed territory, and the Flambeau Primus Entisimon, who had been encouraging the conflict, was forced to resign in disgrace.

The modern House Flambeau has only the loosest organization, with no formal hierarchy and no House offices besides the Primus. There is a loose pecking order based on individual fame and prestige, but that's it. Flambeau place great esteem on practical ability, and those who achieve are those who gain respect and power. Those who do little or are relucant to act only lose status. The most respected are generally middle-aged magi who have many victories and accomplishments to their name yet also remain active in Hermetic affairs. They attempt to hold frequent meetings, as the House is largely held together by esprit de corps and meetings are seen as an important way to maintain cohesion. Their gatherings are social occasions, full of alcohol, debates over favored magic and friendly certamen duels. Increasingly, they are often organized around some combative activity such as hunting or tournaments.

The House is very diverse, with magi from many traditions, including those who joined from other Houses. Each member has a unique outlook, but it is possible to generalize about the common culture. They have a strong martial spirit, and generally believe that naked force is necessary and inevitable. Many believe combat is the purest test of strength and greatest source of glory. Not all are single-minded fighting machines, and many have other interests, but they do share a sense that combat skill makes them an elite in the Order. They often see themselves as the keepers of the peace and the protectors of their less violent colleagues. Even the more cultured and intellectual Flambeau make a point to maintain their fighting skills. They are often practitioners of Certamen, as well, to allow them to defend themselves in legal disputes.

Flambeau the Founder had a strong sense of personal honor, and so do most Flambeau today. They have different ideas about what honor means, but tend to have very firm beliefs on the subject. When two Flambeau magi have a conflict of values, then debate, quarrel, certamen and even Wizard's War tend to result. They are fiercely independent, and...well, between their bravado, sense of honor and desire for glory, they really do resemble knights. They were once described by an outside as fivescore princes and no subjects. Partly due to their independent streak, they love competition. This can be anything from racing to being the first to slay a renounced magus to trying to bond the most impressive familiar or invent the most spectacular Ignem spell. Whenever Flambeau gather, there is bragging and showing off. Despite this, the Flambeau also tend to be committed to service. Flambeau the Founder often spoke of the responsibility to use the Gift in worthy causes. House Flambeau is so zealous in this directive that they have a reputation for sometimes exceeding the bounds of the Code. For example, some are active in the Crusades and Reconquista despite the Code's instruction not to interfere with mundanes. They tend to secretly admire those who break the Code to do what they feel is right, but at the same time they are well-known for their readiness in helping Quaesitores to try and especially to punish lawbreakers.

The Primus is chosen by a gathering of all Flambeau at the domus magna, with those who cannot attend voting by proxy. The election process is exceedingly disorganized, and sometimes is described by attendees as a bragging contest. Flambeau magi proclaim their candidacy and make grand and blustering speeches about their accomplishments (which qualify them to lead) and their plans for the House. The senior Flambeau Quaesitor presides over the meeting, accepting motions from the floor, and in order to maintain some amount of order, the Quaesitor forbids certamen between candidates. The assembled House may move to eliminate any candidate after all have had a chance to speak at least once, but such motions rarely succeed on the first attempt. Speeches, debates, motions and occasional votes continue, sometimes over several days, until a winner is declared.

In theory, the Primus rules for life. In practice, they have a limited term of effectiveness. House Flambeau respects action and decisiveness, not empty words, which places heavy expectations on the new Primus and puts them in a delicate political position. Too bold and they risk alienating the House. Too reticent and they lose credibility and are ignored. The most common fate for a Flambeau Primus is to have a strong start and gradually lose authority until they become hopelessly ineffective and resign. A few have the foresight to resign before they become a joke. The typical Flambeau Primus is a middle-aged to senior magus who rules for a mere two to three decades. The Primus has relatively few direct powers, relying on influence and persuasion rather than formal authority. They have the right to preside over any Gauntlet for admission into the House, and are the nominal leader of Castra Solis, but in practice the domus magna has long been controlled by other magi who have lived there for decades. By tradition, the Primus organizes and presides over the grand tournament of Castra Solis.

The current Primus, Garus, is an aging magus who was once a mercenary and adventurer. He fights using the School of the Founder, and his leadership is beginning to weaken due to his long stay within the walls of Castra Solis. He realizes that his days as Primus are numbered. The year 1220 is a difficult time for the House in general, for the Order is in a period of protracted peace. The Schism War has been done for two hundred years, and most magi believe House Diedne will never resurface. With few overt threats, the House has no cause to rally around. It is divided into rival factions, and recruitment is increasingly difficult as the House lacks some collective purpose. Garus is one of the milites, and he believes the future lies in finding a way to strengthen the House's common identity and values. His vision is to organize the House as an order of knighthood, with a unified mission and formal command structure, but he faces considerable opposition from within.

Garus knows that reform must be gradual or it will not be accepted. He doesn't expect his work to be done in his own lifetime, and devotes much energy to helping certain promising and likeminded magi gain prestige, hoping that one will become his successor. He's implemented a number of reforms aimed at strengthening House unity. Before his tenure, the House tournament was held only in Tribunal years. Garus increased the frequency to once every four years, and there will be a tournament in 1220. The tournament helps to build fellowship, while the opening ceremony gives him a convenient bully pulpit to lecture from. He has also codified the milites' idea of chivalry into written form, and while swearing to it is strictly voluntary, he encourages young magi to do so. He has also introduced more formal bylaws for House meetings, which at first met stiff opposition, but eventually magi realized that these streamlined the meetings and thus made them shorter, so the new rules have gained widespread support.

The original domus magna of Flambeau was Val-Negra. However, during the Schism War, Entisimon found its remote location in the Pyrenees unsuitable as a headquarters and moved to the covenant of Castra Solis. His successor made the change of domus magna official, and there are rumors of neo-Roman elements of the House having a hand in the decision. Castra Solis was founded by Kaeso, a member of the Roman Cult of Mithras whom Apromor recruited in 809. It was built atop a cave once sacred to Mithras, and its name is a reference to Mithras' aspect as a sun god. Castra Solis lies in the Provencal Tribunal, south of Bordeaux. One might expect it to be an imposing fortress, but it's more of a manor house. Kaeso realized that even the strongest stone walls could be pierced by magic, so he concentrated instead on magical defenses, especially enchanted items. The modern Castra Solis avoids fortifications due to being in the territory of the Duke of Aquitane and not wanting to antagonize him by building a strong castle on his lands. As a result, the turb of the covenant (that is, its warrior group) is small for the same reason.

While Castra Solis does have many guest rooms and guest houses in the nearby village, it is far from large enough to accomodate the entire House, let alone their retinues. A large field nearby is used for tournaments and other House events, and the field is large enough both for the tent city of the Flambeau magi and the events themselves. The covenant has an impressive library, with tomes on all kinds of magic and strange creatures. It does not allow anyone to copy from it, though any member of House Flambeau may pay a (slightly sizable) fee to study there. The covenant has a relatively weak magic aura, which is strongest within the sacred cave, whose properties are a strict covenant secret.

Joining House Flambeau is the same process for both apprentices and magi of other Houses. If you belong to another House, you must forswear membership in it. You need a Flambeau sponsor, which can be any Flambeau, though you get recognition proportional to their reputation. Being asked to sponsor another magus' apprentice into the House is considered a great honor. The sponsor is responsible for arranging your Gauntlet. The purpose of the Flambeau Gauntlet is to demonstrate fighting ability, and the sponsor has broad latitude in setting the challenge to be appropriate to the candidate's reputation and potential. The challenge for an "adult" magus is usually harder than that of an apprentice. Typical challenges might include certamen, participation in a tournament or hunt or a quest through a dangerous area. It can be risky, and an especially dangerous Gauntlet might be to singlehandedly hunt and kill a supernatural beast. The sponsor is the ultimate arbiter of what counts as success. House Flambeau likes Gauntlets to be as public as possible, and the more prestigious the sponsor, the more Flambeau attend. A good turnout helps establish your reputation, though if you fail, there's a good chance of getting a bad one as the story spreads.

Tradition and law hold that if an apprentice fails the Gauntlet three times, the fourth is administered by a Quaesitor. When this happens, the candidate that succeeds may still join the Order, but not House Flambeau. They must join another House, typically Ex Miscellanea. Under special circumstances, a magus or even an apprentice may have the Gauntlet waived, but only if they have proven themselves already in some dramatic way. For example, an apprentice named Cindrallon was made a full magus after only seven years as an apprentice because she singlehandedly killed a renounced magus in Wizard's March. While she used a spear and not a spell, her master and the Primus at the time agreed she'd shown outstanding ability. Other battlefield promotions were more common during the Schism War. Since the days of the Founder, there has also been a public initiation ceremony after the Gauntlet. The new Flambeau stands an all-night vigil (perhaps in a church or perhaps in a magical site) and then appears in a plain white robe before an assembly of the House, swearing or reaffirming the Hermetic Oath before an official, such as the Primus, a Quaesitor or a hihgly respected magus, who taps them on the shoulder with a wand or staff and presents their voting sigil. Occasionally, the new magus' parens gives them a gift at the end of the ceremony.

Next time: The Societates Flambonis

Tasoth
Dec 12, 2011


Man I whiffed hard on my guess. Although the concept of playing typically powerless individuals using wiles, bribery and what not to get a specific individual/group to save your home is a neat concept. You could probably build something where the initial phase sees a villager type trying to push their agenda and rack a bunch of bonuses for the following round where everyone plays a hero and tries to be the one that saves the village for glory and rewards.

Kellsterik
Mar 30, 2012


I kind of like this thing where every House writeup has its own brief individual perspective on the war against Diedne, especially since there wasn't extensive info about Diedne itself. I feel like i'm getting a more complete picture of (fictional) history as each House adds something to the story.

Druggeddwarf
Nov 9, 2011

My first attack must ALWAYS be a charge!


Plague of Hats posted:

For the most part I really liked the start of your write up, DruggedDwarf, but I think you talked too much about yourself without actually being funny.

Sorry about that. I just felt I should give fair warning to the game at the beginning less I suddenly went off on a tangent (which knowing me, I probably will) when it comes to how the game itself is played. I will try and be a bit more humourous, but bear with me, I'm not a very funny guy.

Baofu posted:

Am I understanding right that Kagematsu is basically a Harlequin romance novel set in Sengoku era Japan?
Preeeeeeeeeetty much.

HitTheTargets posted:

The hilarious thing is that if you update the setting by a couple hundred years, hey presto, it's half of all anime! Maid RPG would be proud.
The first time I played it, I thought that was how it was going to go? Your typical harem anime with the girls all just trying to get the attention of Kagematsu with hilarious results. I was shut-the-gently caress-down by about round 2.


Tasoth posted:

Man I whiffed hard on my guess. Although the concept of playing typically powerless individuals using wiles, bribery and what not to get a specific individual/group to save your home is a neat concept. You could probably build something where the initial phase sees a villager type trying to push their agenda and rack a bunch of bonuses for the following round where everyone plays a hero and tries to be the one that saves the village for glory and rewards.
...that's not a bad idea...

Hipster Occultist
Aug 16, 2008

He's an ancient, obscure god. You probably haven't heard of him.




How long can a Mage expect to live assuming they've got access to a good Longevity Ritual?

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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Hipster Occultist posted:

How long can a Mage expect to live assuming they've got access to a good Longevity Ritual?

Upwards of 150-200 years or so, in most cases. Flambeau died really young for a magus.

(This assumes no violent accidents. A lot of wizards die in violent accidents, like accidentally being stabbed in the face by an angry faerie.)

Baron Bifford
May 24, 2006
Probation
Can't post for 1972 days!


"2 gay ogres appear within 3d10 feet and begin butt-plugging as if tomorrow will never exist."

This is comedy gold. I cannot finish my soup as I read it.

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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Ars Magica 5th Edition: Houses of Hermes: Societates

The Milites, one of the Societas Flambonis, may have come to prominence in the Schism War, but they actually originate in the early days of the House. They see themselves as Hermetic knights, in both a military and social sense. They are also a political movement that seeks to spread their ideals. They believe that magical power comes with a responsibility to use restraint, uphold justice and serve the community over individual aims. Flambeau the Founder spoke often of this duty, and the milites see themselves as inheriting that legacy. Personal honor means everything to them, and they follow a code of conduct similar to chivalry obeyed by normal knights, believing that striving to uphold it uplifts the spirit.



The milites want to use their power justly and with honor, and tend to look down on those magi who overuse their powers against mere mundanes. They usually see only wizards and supernatural beings as worthy foes. Some go so far as to use a fighting style that emphasizes hand-to-hand skill over combat magic. They swear loyalty to the Order as a whole, which is generally taken to mean the Grand Tribunal. While the Primus of Bonisagus in theory leads the Order, they tend to see the Primus of Flambeau as their immediate superior and liege lord, with the Primus of Bonisagus as overlord. They stand ready to assist the Quaesitores, the local Tribunals and even Redcaps. Occasionally, the Primus of Flambeau calls on them for errands, but the current Primus only does so for official business and does not abuse them. Unlike most Flambeau, the milites are willing to work together, considering other sworn members of the societas to be their siblings, to be supported and, if needed, avenged. As a political movement, they seek to get more and more Flambeau to sign on to their code, and must believe the House desperately needs honor and discipline. In addition to trying to reform House Flambeau, they are often involved in broader political movements. Not everyone supports them, however, and some are suspicious of their authoritarian nature, suspecting them of scheming to take over the House. Others resent their narrow definition of honor and that they judge others by the same standards that mundanes use.



Then there's the Cult of Mercury. When the Founders began to invite others to join, Mercere's son Priamitus sought those descended from the ancient Cult of Mercury, who still knew some secrets of Mercurian magic but had lost most of their ancient spells. At Apromor's invitation, most of these wizards joined House Flambeau, where they are still most strongly represented. Through Priamitus, they have had very close ties to House Mercere, and the Cult welcomes any magus that wishes to join. They believe that the pagan gods of Rome and Greece are mechanism of nature with a magical aspect. When they speak of the influence of Venus, they mean the natural process of love given magical assistance, for example. Many also believe that there are magical spirits associated with these processes that live in the Magic Realm and which magi may interact with directly. When they speak of the gods, it is these daimons they sometimes mean, but more often they mean the anthropomorphized concepts that represent magic.

The Cult has a strong appreciation of Roman culture, though for many it is just a chance to dress up in ancient clothes and pretend to be from what they feel was a more magical era. They organize festivals based on the Roman calendar, and they are sometimes known as flamen, 'priest', and officiate at Hermetic events or interpret omens and lead Mercurian spell rituals. The pagan trappings of the cult are seen as foolish or blasphemous by many, but few Mercurians actually take them seriously, just as most magi do not believe the name 'Order of Hermes' to be anything but symbolic. Many of the Cult consider themselves Christian as well as Mercurian. Within House Flambeau, the flamines tend to emphasize the gods who had martial or civic aspects, such as Mars, Apollo, Minerva and Jupiter. They look back on Imperial Rome as a bringer of civilization and enlightenment, and many feel the Order has inherited that role.

The Mithraians descend from the hedge wizard Kaeso, recruited by Apromor along with three of his allies. These magi had a shared philosophy of justice and harmony via use of magic to battle evil. They founded Castra Solis over a sacred Mithraic cave and set about trying to reconstruct the ancient Cult of Mithras. It was no easy task - the Cult of Mithras was far more private than that of Mercury, and most of its secrets were lost with the collapse of the Western Empire. While Kaeso was able to reconstruct some of their beliefs and ceremonies, it's unclear whether he found any major magical secrets. If he did, he certainly didn't share them with the Order. Even in 1220, four centuries later, there is much that is not known about the Cult of Mithras. Those magi descended from the Mithraians do not always actually worship the pagan god, or at least not openly, but do tend to share the cult's ethos. They believe in building harmony, in practicing honesty and good morals and in striving for personal excellence. Kaeso's followers believe that it was Flambeau's Mithraic heritage that made him such an active supporter of the Order, and seek to follow that example.

It should be noted, of course, that not all Flambeau are so heroic. They may be knights, but there were robber-knights, and in the same way, there are robber-Flambeau. Magic can be very handy for an outlaw, if you're clever about it. Some are bullies, while others see themselves as freedom fighters who are willing to violate the Code to defeat an evil king or invader. A few are forced into banditry by the collapse of covenant income. They're not always professionals, and may only be bandits as a sideline, especially if the Quaesitores of the local area are strict. They tend to prefer subtle magic so that they can't be readily identified as wizards.

Now, tournaments. House Flambeau has held organized tournaments since the days of the Schism War's end. The most major of them is a regular tournament at Castra Solis, which lasts five days surrounding the summer solstice of every leap year. There will be one in 1220. Other tournaments are sometimes held at other Flambeau covenants, either at regular intervals or to celebrate special occasions. Their tournaments are not exclusive - anyone is welcome to attend and compete, and tournaments often draw Tytalus and Tremere. Part of the point is to give Flambeaus someone to cheer against, after all.

The staple event of the tournies is certamen, which is contained in every single one of them. In each round, magi face off in a best two-of-three match, with 15 minutes of rest between duels and at least an hour between matches. A panel of officials generally made of noncompeting magi seeds the brackets to keep the strongest from facing each other immediately. The normal rules of certamen are slightly altered. The younger magus names the Form and the elder the Technique. While you may veto the opponent's first choice as normal, you may not do so in both the first and second duels of the match. Thus, each contestant is guaranteed their choice at least once. The rules of the tournament also strictly forbid using the final spell that certamen allows.

Another popular if controversial event is dimicatio, meaning 'contest' or 'battle.' In this, real spells are cast, though without penetration, and each magus must fast-cast a defense to block the opposing spell. The first to strike the other's Parma wins. Needless to say, it is quite dangerous, and aimed spells that bypass magical resistance are strictly forbidden. The contest is always tightly controlled in front of a referee and many spectators, and the referee uses magical detection to tell who wins. Actually penetrating the foe's Parma is cheating and taken as a crime. The rules permit any spell that directly targets the foe, however, so long as it does not bypass the Parma. Fireballs are popular. Some Quaesitores want to outlaw dimicatio due to the high chance of accidents or cheating, but that only makes House Flambeau love it more. The grand tournament of Castra Solis always involves dimicatio, and any magus that wins at least two matches of certamen in the certamen tournament is allowed to enter the dimicatio tournament.

Even more controversial is the Wizards' Melee, an uncommon and very dangerous event in which magi and teams of grogs face off against each other. The object is to successfully cast a touch-range spell against the enemy wizard without piercing their Parma. Typically, this means defeating their grogs first. Each team has one magus and five grogs. It is allowed and even expected that you will extend your Parma over some or all of the grogs. The wizards' melee is a tournament 'au plaisance' - for the pleasure of the the thing. There are no prizes. Rules have not yet been standardized, but typically include the following: Only touch and personal-range spells are permitted, to prevent easy neutralization of grogs. Some tournaments allow voice-range spells as long as you only use them on your own grogs. Grogs typically must be armed with blunted weapons, and weapon selection is restricted. (No warhammers, for example. They are not tournament-safe.) Damage-inflicting spells may be banned altogether or limited to lower power spells. (Castra Solis bans them outright.) Enchanted devices are allowed provided they obey all other rules for spells, and magi are permitted to use vis during the wizards' melee. Even with all these rules, the potential for accidental death or injury is so high that many Quaesitores are appalled that the event even exists.



Tournaments may also involve special challenges set by the host, which will have broad descriptions announced in advance so that participants know what to expect. The challenge may be anything, but is usually both dramatic and dangerous, such as a race through a maze full of magical traps. Some Quaesitores (and magi in general) frown on these challenges because of the dangers, and also because sometimes they are borderline molestation of the fae. There are also a number of common minor events - tests of accuracy with aimed spells, something like a mundane archery tournament, for example. There may be seperate contests for apprentices and grogs, and there's always plenty of feasting, music and beer. Lots and lots of beer.

Next time: Wizard's War

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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Ars Magica 5th Edition: Houses of Hermes: Societates

Wizard's War was included in the Order's laws by insistence of the Founder Flambeau, who wanted to ensure his enemies could never escape him. One of the key characteristics to the War is that it is of limited duration. A Wizard's War must be declared on the night of the full moon. It then begins at the rise of the next full moon, lasting until the rise of a third full moon. Since it can be relatively easy to evade someone for a lunar month, Wizard's War does not always end in a death. The Code defines the Wizard's War as a conflict between two magi and only two magi. Most magi in 1220 belong to covenants, gaining some protection from Wizard's War. Although Wizard's War allows those involved to violate each other's rights, it does not extend to anyone else, and you may not lawfully break or steal property belonging to anyone but your foe, scry on noncombatants or attack noncombatants that get in the way. Thus, you can often escape Wizard's War by hiding in your covenant, protected by the Aegis of the Hearth and the aid of your sodales. After all, if they deny access, they have full rights to force someone to leave, and may even have grounds for a complaint at Tribunal if they don't. While they shouldn't kill out of hand, the Code allows defense of territory.



The Code also makes it hard to scry on someone's covenant, since any magic that reveals information about anyone other than the foe or that can even potentially do so is usually considered a Code breach. There's only a few options to deal with those who hide. First, you can renew your declaration, repeatedly if needed, to make your foe a prisoner in their own walls. The Peripheral Code requires the first War to end before the next can be declared, so this will mean repeated cycles of one month of war, then one month of peace. Second, you can declare Wizard's War on your foe's sodales and allies - while the War may be between two magi, nothing says you can't have more than one War at once. Were you to declare against an entire covenant, you could attack with impunity. A single magus can cause a lot of damage with hit-and-run, but on the other hand, there's a big risk of them getting together and killing you.

And then there's escalation. Let's assume you declared war, your foe hid, you decided to declare war on their entire covenant and then you burned some of its buildings. They, understandably, are pissed, and hound you back to your covenant, which they declare war on. If there are any deaths, that just makes the net of vengeance bigger. Because of this potential for escalation, most covenants see little benefit in being drawn into a Wizard's War between two people, and while most are willing to defend against unprovoked aggression, those who antagonize others and then try to hide are often viewed differently. Covenant charters sometimes include clauses that prohibit that kind of thing. They tend to want a resolution that doesn't involve their members dying, and often work to negotiate resolutions to prevent escalation - sometimes without the knowledge of the combatants. Terms may include restitution for the grievance that provoked the war, arbitration by a Quaesitor or even exiling both magi involved to other Tribunals.

So, why declare Wizard's War? It doesn't always mean you want to kill someone. It's not required, after all. Sometimes, it's just a ploy to force negotiation, or to persuade the enemy's covenant to help resolve things. It can also be used to harass and intimidate, especially weaker magi. The point may just be to send the victim into hiding in their sanctum, though this can backfire if they have powerful friends or if their covenant gets sick of your poo poo. Tribunals are reluctant to prosecute for liberal use of Wizard's War, but extreme cases of abuse may count as endangering the Order. Because magi engaged in Wizard's War are outside the Code, you might also use it for the chance to do other illegal activities, such as robbing a sanctum or scrying. There's always the risk of dying while doing it, or suffering a retaliatory War, of course. Covenants tend to take a dim view of this sort of thing.

Those who feel threatened may well seek the protection of a more potent magus, who pledges to avenge them if they die in Wizard's War, as long as the War was not started by the weaker magus. This can be a potent deterrent, with the right champion. Certain members of House Flambeau claim credit for using these pacts to end blood feuds and bring peace. Occasionally, an aggressor will not be aware of the pact, think it is a bluff or just not care, and so sometimes magi are forced into Wizard's War to fulfill an oath. And perhaps the soundest reason for Wizard's War is because you believe your foe broke the Code. You can always bring the complaint to Tribunal, but they need silly things like 'evidence' and sometimes they're indifferent to your pleas. Flambeau magi especially are too proud to go running to the Quaesitores and prefer to take justice into their own hands. Last, the threat of Wizard's War can be used to enforce a pact, as each magus involved pledges to declare War on any pact-breaker.

By the time a declaration arrives, it's usually too late to prepare. You want to get that poo poo ready in advance. The best defense against Wizard's War is your own covenant. With loyal grogs and friendly sodales, protected by walls and the Aegis, most magi consider it merely annoying to have to hide inside until the War ends. Sometimes, though, you'll want to avoid involving your covenant. Then, it can be better to leave the Tribunal for a time. Some consider self-imposed exile more honorable than hiding and exposing your sodales to the wrath of another. Such magi often refuse to seek refuge nearby - the farther they go, the better. More often than not, the enemy is too lazy to give chase. When possible you'll want to send word ahead of time to wherever you run to, explaining that Wizard's War may be coming and you need hospitality. Even if you choose to fight and not flee, leaving your covenant can still be a good idea. I keeps them out of it and makes it harder for your foe to know where to attack. With a little vis and small cabin in the woods or a cave, you can set up a very defensible refuge. Most magi mistakenly believe the Aegis is only usable by covenants, but there's no reason you couldn't set one up elsewhere. Ideally, such a refuge is made ahead of time, kept secret and has some provisions laid aside. Also, while other magi may not join in the actual combat, nothing stops them from assisting. You can get vis loans, enchanted items, casting tablets and other help that can make the difference between death and victory. Magi can even cast spells on your behalf, so long as they don't break the Code while doing it. Wizard's War is as much about cunning as it is power.

House Flambeau also maintains schools of combat. When most think of it, they think fire magic. And certainly, mani Flambeau follow in the Founder's footsteps. Apromor, however, concentrated on Perdo magic, and other magi have found their own ways. Magi of Flambeau refer to each style of fighting as a school of combat. They aren't formal lineages, just groups of magi who have chosen a common approach to fighting. By speaking of schools, they can talk about the best methods of combining spells, the best tactics and the best countermeasures...and they can have longwinded debates about who's best. Every magus who learns to fight is following some school, whether they know it or not, and Flambeau magi tend to devote a lot of study to developing a coherent and interconnected fighting suite rather than rely on mismatched and un-thought-out combat spells.

The School of the Founder relies on Ignem magic, and it remains one of the most popular in House Flambeau. While the House is not a true lineage, it does contain a lineage of magi who claim descent from Flambeau via Elaine, and over time they and other fire magi have broadened and strengthened the House's Ignem tradition. Fire has several advantages as a weapon. It is highly damaging compared to other Forms of the same power, can harm many things with only one Form and can cause collateral damage. Naturally set fires, after all, don't care about magic resistance. Plus, it looks really impressive, and can panic animals and mundanes. Of course, the School is not without its flaws. Some very powerful beings are naturally resistant to fire, such as dragons and even some people. You need a different tactic against them. Further, it relies heavily on penetrating Magic Resistance, which can be a problem, especially if the enemy has studied fire magic with an eye towards defending themselves against it. The School of the Founder is, after all, quite famous and uses relatively few spells. That makes it quick to learn, at least, and easy to specialize in. On the other hand, it isn't subtle at all. Everyone can tell who's throwing fire around, and you quickly earn a reputation for it. Those who need to operate closely with mundanes tend to find that inconvenient. Also, fire is notoriously hard to control, and loving up will really, really cause problems. Besides, fire magic isn't really good for anything except killing people. Many Flambeau don't care that they're one trick ponies, but they are. And often, a magus will need more breadth of skill. Plus, specializing in just one Form can leave you weak in certamen. Still, it's a very straightforward school and easy to improve, if not very broad.

The School of Apromor focuses on Perdo magic to damage foes directly. Apromor was the first apprentice of Flambeau, who turned away from him early. His school has a number of advantages over the Founder's. While some creatures may be immune to fire, none are immune to Perdo, though they may have Magic Resistance. It can do nearly as much damage as fire magic, but is more versatile, able to blind, disarm and incapacitate as well as harm. It also disregards armor completely. It's less showy than fire, and while magic is obviously in use, it can be hard in a battle situation to tell where it came from or if the events even happened because of magic rather than some accident. Apromor himself was fond of casting without gestures and increasing the confusion. Casting without voice is possible, but most Perdo spells use Voice range, so it's impractical. Further, Perdo is not limited to offense. It can cause invisibility, for example, calm emotion. Many Perdo spells can be used for indirect attack and thus bypass magic resistance by, say, opening a pit under someone's feet. It can dispel magic, or alter objects by removing properties of them. In spite of this great versatility, however, the School of Apromor is not without weaknesses. Most spells do need to penetrate magic resistance, and it's harder to specialize and boost your spells because you have a whole lot of poo poo to study. At least you do get some indirect attacks, though. On the other hand...well, you need to study a lot of different Forms and learn a lot of spells to affect many kinsd of foe. A spell that works on a human will not work on a horse or a sword or a demon. It is one of the most study-intensive schools out there, and the more you focus on one or two specific Forms, the more of its versatility you sacrifice.

The School of Boreas relies on Perdo Ignem magic. Boreas was a ninth-century magus descended from Flambeau via Apromor, and he wanted to bridge the gap of his lineage, developing a school that appealed to both Flambeau's line and Apromor's. Most find the School of Boreas too narrow to be interesting. Even the School of the Founder is more versatile. But it does have advantages. Cold and darkness are both narrow enough to be a magical focus, which is very handy for this school. And as simple as the ideas is, cold-based attacks do avoid some of the weaknesses of both the Founder's and Apromor's schools. Cold spells that go wrong can't set buildings on fire. Cold can harm most living things with a single Form. It does have to penetrate Magic Resistance, but because it uses only one Form-Technique combination, it takes far less study than the School of Apromor. Some young Flambeau choose to specialize early in the School of Boreas and later expand outwards into the School of Apromor. The primary limitation of the School of Boreas is that there is a very limited amount you can do with Perdo Ignem. It does include darkness, though, so it can help with stealth. Also, its spells do less damage than comparable Creo Ignem attacks, but are roughly the same as comparable Perdo Corpus attacks.

The School of Ramius attempts to bypass this entire Magic Resistance business by never using attack spells, favoring physical attacks. It uses magic to enhance the magus' combat ability, usually defensively. Ramius was a mid-rank Tremere who defected to Flambeau after the Sundering of Tremere in 848 AD. He was a skilled warrior as well as a magus, and he asserted that the obsession with defeating magic resistance led magi to overspecialize, diminishing their effectiveness. He went to Iberia to fight the Moors with House Flambeau, where he perfected his method of using magical enhancement and mundane attack. The School of Ramius prefers to avoid attack-enhancing spells, because when a weapon is enchanted, it must pierce magic resistance. Rather, they prefer to enhance their own defenses before going into battle and then wade in with a sword. One of the main advantages is that it does not require specialization in any Arts - you can work with what you like, and since you don't need to penetrate, you can be eclectic. Muto, Rego and Corpus are common, despite their poor use in attack spells. They often have very strong Parma Magicae, which provides them a very good all-around defense on top of their spells. They're even subtler than the School of Apromor, since their magic is usually done by the time combat starts. They are even more effective when supported in battle by trained grogs, and can be a vicious vanguard, absorbing the brunt of the enemy's attacks. However, there are flaws. The School of Ramius lacks magical attacks, and is ineffective against foes who are too physically powerful to be harmed by swords, such as dragons or giants. Further, their own Parma Magica can get in the way, and many have to invent variant spells that are personal-range only to avoid having their buffs be stopped by their own shield, which can limit the usefulness of these spells. The School of Ramius is especially popular with those magi whose sense of honor makes them feel ranged attack is ignoble.

The Schools of Sebastian are actually a family of minor schools that rely on conjuring objects or substances using nonstandard attack Forms. Sebastian was an eighth-century hedge wizard who joined House Flambeau and learned Hermetic magic. He was very bad at most Arts, with one major exception: Aquam, at which he excelled. He developed a method of fighting around conjuring water. The term 'Schools of Sebastian' is a catchall for minor schools based on unusual forms, such as the animal-summoning School of Ebroin or the plant-controlling School of Marosa. Even House Flambeau loses track of all these tiny minor Schools, see. The actual School of Sebastian is only the first and most famous. Most members of a School of Sebastian have an appropriate Magical Focus, or specialize in Arts other than Perdo and Ignem. Like the Schools of Apromor and the Founder, most Schools of Sebastian must penetrate Magic Resistance, and they tend to be less damaging than comparable Ignem magic. On the otherh and, they are much better for those who want to specialize in other Forms, and are commonly used by non-Flambeau who think of themselves as specialists who can fight, rather than combat magi.

The final major Flambeau school is the School of Vilano, which relies solely on indirect attacks to avoid Magic Resistance, such as levitating a rock and then dropping it. Vilano was a ninth-century Flambeau from Istria in Transylvania. He suffered from weak penetrative ability but was determined to be a skilled warrior, and was the first of the House to succeed solely by indirect spells, most famously when he killed the Green Dragon of Labin by crushing it with falling trees. His tactics have since been widely emulated. Indirect magic allows for the user to not have to worry about magic resistance, making it shockingly effective. It is very popular as a secondary school when a magus' primary magic doesn't work, and is probably the most common school of combat used by the Order as a whole, since it requires neither specific Arts nor mastery of any spells. This makes it attractive to those magi who want combat ability without much time dedicated to it. It does have weaknesses, of course. There's a fairly limited selection of spells invented so far that are aimed rather than direct, and many only work in specific circumstances. Sure, Cascade of Rocks can do a lot of damage, but you need a hillside nearby or a cliff. Typically, magi compensate by using a few very versatile spells, inventing new ones and making sure they have a broad repertoire. Another flaw: they can miss. Aimed spells need to be aimed, and you need good finesse to actually hit people with them. Plus, there are two chances to gently caress up - the casting, and the aiming. Most also do fairly low damage. They're good for traps or wounding, but not killing quickly in most cases, and you don't want your foe to be able to effectively counterattack. Some Vilano followers develop strong magical defneses, borrowing tactics from the School of Ramius, while others prefer to fight while invisible or rely on shield grogs for protection until they can neutralize foes. Most followers of Vilano make extensive use of magic items as well as spells, since while magic items tend to have poor penetration, their tactics circumvent that weakness.

The chapter ends with rules for fighting invisible foes, and a handful of new spell guidelines for how hard it is to make aimed rock-throwing spells rather than spells that just hit people with rocks.

Next time: House Jerbiton

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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Ars Magica 5th Edition: Houses of Hermes: Societates

House Jerbiton had at last count 102 members, but within the next few years a large number of apprentices will reach the end of their studies and become full magi, increasing that. Their domus magna is Valnastium, a secluded valley in the Great Alps Tribunal, which has 21 official members, although nine of those currently live in chapterhouses of the domus magna in Vienna, Constance, Geneva and Saint Gallen. The Primus is the charming and effective Andru filius Astrolabe, a magus of middle age. It is most common to find Jerbiton magi in the Greater Alps and Theban Tribunals, but with the last century they can be found practically anywhere on the continent. The motto of the House is Quae pulchra, placent - Beauty is all that pleases. Their symbol is a pennant flown from a tower, typically bearing the alchemical sign of Mercury.

The Founder Jerbiton was born in a remote Alpine village, but taken as an apprentice by a magus from the Eastern Empire, with a tradition dating back to cosmopolitan Greece. Jerbiton was sent as the Greek emissary to the Order of Hermes, but for many years, others of his tradition did not join it. House Jerbiton still considers the Eastern Empire as its heartland and has been shocked and enraged by the fall of Constantinople in 1204. Their next generation of apprentices, raised after the sack, is about to graduate into magushood, representing a new path for Jerbiton.

It should be noted that the Founder's name was Flavius of Jerbiton, not just Jerbiton. He was born the son of a noble in 729, noted for his love of riding and the fact that objects near him seemed to change color with his moods. His family was descended from Roman stock, from a soldier granted land in the Alps during the early Empire. The Ierbi, as this family called themselves, continue to live much as they did in Roman times, isolated from the world by the remote Alps, and speak a deformed variation of Latin even today. It was a tradition for young men of the Alps to travel outside in search of money and wives while being mercenaries, then to return and become farmers. One such returnee was a former servant of a Thracian wizard, and recognized the Gift in Flavius, encouraging his parents to send the boy for training. The Thracian wizard needed no apprentice, but mentioned the boy and the strange Ierbi to his allies. One of them, Bernice of Thessalonica, traveled to the Alps and collected the young Jerbiton while exploring the Rhaeto-Roman culture of the area.

It should be noted that when Emperor Constantine moved his capital to Constantinople in 330 AD, the Church and Empire persecuted those in the area who had the Gift's magical air. The survivors either had the Gentle Gift or enough wealth to not interact with normal people. Thus, they were able to form a loose society, becoming the ancestors of House Jerbiton. The magi of Greece formed alliances known as leagues, each focused on a charismatic figure or a single issue, so they were rather transient. When the Order was forming, the most potent of these was the League of Iconophiles, formed to oppose Emperor Leo III. In 729, Leo III had declared that all images of Christ and the Saints should be destroyed, forbidding the display of crosses in places of worship as well. The Empire's wizards worried that this violation of sacred places of Christ would weaken the Dominion and aid the Infernal. The League of Iconophiles aided Iconophile mundanes, worked against the Emperor's supporters, sabotaged the Imperial armies and helped to hide icons until they could be used again.

Bernice was a member of the League of Iconophiles, and she took Flavius to Thessalonica, the second most important city in the Empire, to complete his noble schooling and his magical training. Bernice named the boy Flavius Ierbitonis, 'the fair-haired one of the town of yesterday.' During his training, the Iconophiles grew powerful when an iconophilic noble seized Constantinople, then dramatically weaker when Imperial reprisal followed. Flavius completed his training and returned home, but after Bernice suffered a spinal injury in the lab, he came back to help her. While serving her, he met her allies and their apprentices. From what can be told, Bernice and Jerbiton both favored the magic of illusion and deception, as did many of their allies.

In 753, the Imperial army began to systematically sack Iconophilic monasteries, seizing the icons and relics within and burning them or hurling them into the sea. The League of Iconophiles could not ensure that any site in the Empire might remain unmolested, so a group of them were sent to Jerbiton's valley home, preparing a repository of icons in the West, beyond the reach of the Imperial army. They dwelt in Jerbiton's childhood villa, and following the city-based naming of the Iconophiles, they were said to be 'of the House of Jerbiton,' a naming style that would spread to the other Founders. The covenant thy formed is today Valnastium, domus magna of the House.

Trianoma could not convince the Iconophiles to join the Order; they felt it was too geographically diffuse to be useful. Bernice could not travel due to her injuries, but was interested enough to send Flavius, now called Jerbiton, to deliver some of her books to Bonisagus and answer his questions. Jerbiton assisted Bonisagus in the development of the Arts of Mentem and Imaginem, as well as in perfecting the system of gestures and vocalizations for spellcasting. He also convinced Bonisagus to name the fields of magic Arts and the power of magic the Gift. Bernice of Thessalonica accepted membership in the Order, but she died in 763, before the First Tribunal. At the time of the First Tribunal, the League of Iconophiles was still busy, now against Emperor Constantine V, the son of Leo III. Monasteries were still being sacked and icons burned, as puppet bishops gave false instruction to the faithful. The Iconophiles were far too busy countering Imperial and Infernal forces to pay any attention to what they saw as a gathering of hedge wizards in the Black Forest.

Jerbiton and the magi of his household participated in the Order only as a secondary concern. It was interesting, and the Parma was surely useful, but the future of civilization was at stake in the east, and none of Jerbitons new "sodales" seemed to care. In fact, the Code said it was wrong to fight the Emperor, aid the Church or incite the wrath of the Infernal. Though Jerbiton's followers stayed within the letter of the Code, they continued to materially support their eastern allies. Eventually, Jerbiton did befriend Bonisagus, Criamon, Mercere and Tremere, though Tremere would later betray him. In 775, House Tremere invaded the Empire, slaying magi and stealing their treasures and vis sources. Fighting the Infernal, the Empire and Tremere was too much for the Greek magi. They formed a military alliance, the Theban League, and joined the Order under Jerbiton's nominal leadership. Trained in the Parma, they were able to reclaim their lands from Tremere and eventually founded the Theban Tribunal. One of Jerbiton's allies, Pelagius, traveled widely in search of recruits, and House Jerbiton went from a tiny coterie to a large and unstructured House.



Jerbiton died in his sleep, and was buried beside his wife under the Church of Saint Cyprian in Valnastium. In his elder years, Jerbiton had opposed the growing influence of House Tremere, with only mixed success. His death allowed the Domination of Tremere to enter its final stage. Some claim Jerbiton had a role in the Sundering, despite being dead. Others, in the Theban, Novgorod and Greater Alps Tribunals, continue to watch Transylvania for signs of expansionism. During the Schism War, at least from the perspective of the Primus of Jerbiton, a House full of pagans was annihilated and a House dedicated to tyranny was broken. Most of House Jerbiton retreated to cities or secret places to wait out the war, and while it assisted in reconstruction after, most of the House's leaders privately believed that the entire thing turned out for the best. Even their fellow Housemates seem to feel this was a rather callous view. In the two centuries following the War, various fads and fashions swept the House, and most Jerbitons learned little to no combat magic. In multi-House covenants, they often worked as ambassadors and politicians, leaving the House incapable of concerted action outside crises.



The fall of Constantinople shattered Europe's views and certainties. It destroyed the Empire's sense of destiny and the credibility of the Crusades. The fall of the City, as Jerbiton magi still call Constantinople, destroyed House Jerbiton's arrogant certainty that it was living in the best way possible, as well. If they could not prevent the City's sack, then something was fundamentally wrong. Andru, the Primus, has used the fall of the City to draw the House away from personal contemplation, rallying Jerbiton around its ancient values, hiding precious art from vandals and working to covertly intervene. A new way of life is emerging for the House.



The Primus Andrus has convinced many of his sodales to take apprentices in commemoration of the City. They often have the names Constanta or Constantine, and do not change them when they graduate. This has led to a revival of second names among Jerbiton magi, and these apprentices, who name themselves antigones ('those like their ancestors') will soon begin to seek covenants over the next two or three years. Some, whose training began before the fall of the City but who share the antigonic ideals, have already become magi. The antigones represent a generational shift in attitude, a triumph of Andru's interventionist beliefs over the more passive and aesthetic way of life found in most magi of his generation. Many apprentices are still trained in the older, more self-absorbed style, lacking the concerted drive, opinions and bitter anger of the antigones. Antigones often bear symbols to show their allegiance, such as the double-headed phoenix, ash wood tools or unostentatious gray clothes. Their use of the name antigone refers to a common Greek character who led her blind father through the wilderness after he lost his kingdom to his own foolishness. The antigones are not formally organized, but many know each other via the House practices of tourism and fosterage. Some plan to form House covenants, currently quite rare, and others plan to join multi-House covenants but act far more politically than their forebears. One of the Primus' students, Constanta of Tessellatrix, is extremely active in coordinating her agemates.

Next time: Jerbiton Culture

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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Ars Magica 5th Edition: Houses of Hermes: Societates

House Jerbiton is held together not by political structure but by shared culture. Specifically: Jerbiton magi live tastefully. "Tasteful living" usually means embracing a series of ideas popular with urban magi since before the Order began. It's not a unique view to the House, though many other magi don't put nearly as much thought into it. To understand what it means, we're going to have to understand the Jerbiton definition of beauty. It has many definitions, of course, even among the Jerbiton. Especially among the Jerbiton, really. Beauty is that which pleasantly enlivens the senses. Beauty is that which moves the higher emotions. Beauty is that which draws you closer to God. Beauty is that which artists create. The Founder Jerbiton taught that the ability to sense beauty, like the abilities to sense cold, saltiness or loudness, was provided by God to allow humans to properly interact with the world. Jerbiton believed that magi had a duty to collaborate with God and make the world more beautiful. This would, he said, make the world fundamentally a better place and more pleasing to God. Not all Jerbiton magi agree, but most believe that beauty is a guide to ethical life.

Jerbiton magi, likewise, tend to see ugliness as a mark of wrongness, much as putrid scent marks bad food. Christian philosophy guides magi in their search for beauty by pointing out, as written by Bernard of Clairvaux, that inner beauty is more precious than outer beauty. It should be noted that medieval Europe had much, much less restrictive ideas of what beauty meant than the modern world. The Romans and Greeks especially saw beauty in many, many things, and their views continue in the House's aesthetic tradition. People of other races were beautiful to medieval Europeans for their contrast to the Europeans. Signs of age could be beautiful if they added character. The crack in a gemstone could be beautiful, if it enhanced the stone's luster. The ability to see the hidden, true beauty of things is, for House Jerbiton, a form of wisdom. They know, for example, that faeries and demons play at the appearance of beauty. This is because they are essentially ugly and must lie to appear otherwise.



Taste, meanwhile, is another important facet of Jerbiton philosophy. To understand it, consider that God gave humans an instinct for beauty, much as humans can sense if a food is good or rotten. Beyond wholesomeness, however, different eaters prefer different flavors of food, and similarly, different people prefer different things, either across the whole of their lives or at various times based on mood. This capacity to tell the beautiful from the ugly and to prefer a specific kind of beauty is known as 'taste.' Taste is an emotional response, but it may be learned and you can be trained to articulate it. Young Jerbiton magi are taught good manners, shown exquisite art and beautiful scenery and taught how to discuss these things, much as a young noble is taught how to properly appreciate wine. The ability to articulate taste is a vital social skill in the House. It is important among polite magi to acknowledge that even among those of good taste, preferences vary. Jerbiton magi live according to their own taste, and the ability to acknowledge that a thing can be in good taste and yet not your own taste allows for diplomatic disagreement on deeper philosophical issues, such as religion or politics.

Jerbiton also taught, and most of the House agrees, that art requires skill, exercises creativity and intends to show beauty. This implies that art is best performed by those trained in it. Art draws on the gifts of the artist, and thus is a method of association with the Divine. This also implies that those things done for productive ends are not and cannot be art. Excellent art, Jerbiton said, requires both learned skill and God-given creativity. Some artists are more skilled than others, just as some bakers are more skilled than others, and their art is therefore better or worse, at a level beyond opinion. Most Jerbiton magi either practice art or practice patronage of the arts. Whether a magus is talented or not is purely at the discretion of the player, and talent cannot be mechanically expressed.



The reason for this is that creativity is a gift from God and cannot be learned. It is innate, finding expression via your skill. Those that create beauty are artistic tools wielded by God, and Jerbiton magi believe that even poor artists who possess creativity should express it and develop their skills, for even poor art brings you into the hand of God. Craft, which is by nature functional, is not art. A potter who makes a bowl to carry water or a mason who builds a wall to hold up a roof is engaged in craft, not art. Many crafters, however, are also artists. The decoration of a pot can be artistic, because it is inessential to its function. A wall can have decorative features which serve no functional purpose but to beautify. Similarly, Jerbiton magi differentiate between mere spellcasting and the Arts. Every spell has a function, but it is how you cast and use it that determines if it is beautiful.

Jerbiton taught that magi, by seeking beauty, would naturaly create spaces of beauty around themselves. Those of his House who share this idea tend to live in estates near cities, close enough for easy access to urban services yet far enough to minimize the Dominion's influence. They often invest in devices for rapid travel. Others create places of beauty within cities, or their covenants. As the wild places have become increasingly settled, it is getting harder to make private places of beauty near towns. As towns become more potent, as many did in the last two centuries, their agricultural lands have become contested zones, disputed by neighboring nobles. This has often forced odd alliances between House Jerbiton and those Houses which traditionally preserve the wilderness, such as Bjornaer.

All great philosophers agree: you are not truly free unless you have the right to determine how you spend your time. Mundane philosophers tend to express this idea in terms of wealth, but most magi can rather trivially achieve mundane wealth. Jerbiton magi take the idea further, believing that you are not living as you should when constrained by duties to a covenant or lack of vis. Jerbiton magi in covenants that make demands on the time of magi or lack sufficient vis strive to improve their homes, even at the expense of study, until they are rich enough to support magi in the correct way. In Tribunals where House Jerbiton is strong, it uses its influence to limit hte magus population, in order to limit conflict over vis. The antigones, of course, will rapidly enlarge the House, and their desire for vis as well as the relatively common appearance of the Gentle Gift in Jerbiton magi may well send them out to the edges of the Order, particularly into Muslim Africa, the Levant and perhaps even the eastern trade routes beyond. Note also that House Jerbiton considers those who study the Arts for their entire lives without purpose to be addicts. Jerbiton magi study for goals, and when they feel the slight increase of power brought by study to be unappealing, they do something else. Some stop studying for life, while others find new goals to pursue.

Because Jerbiton magi use their leisure time to live as they desire to live, they often get involved with mundanes, for influencing mundane institutions is a common hobby. They also engage in intrigue to support favored causes, such as religious or political movements...or just nurturing their mundane families. The family and the simple pleasure of community are important to House Jerbiton. If your birth family rejected you because of your Gift, you'll need to find a new one. Jerbiton magi select noble apprentices more often than others, which can often create confusion with regards to inheritance. Magi, after all, cannot have feudal relationships or inherit land, though in some Tribunals inheritance of rights or money are allowed, as is inheritance of land by the magus' children. This system is the same as that used by nobles who enter monasteries or the Church. Of course, a child who inherits must have a steward, and Quaesitores always watch such arrangements closely.

House Jerbiton, as you might guess, often pushes the boundaries of what qualifies as mundane interference. The Code's provision against such things is essentially unenforceable in the Greater Alps Tribunal, and is weaker than normal wherever Jerbiton magi are politically active. In most Tribunals, it is not considered interference to defend yourself or your servants from threats other than by forming alliances with your foe's own foes. Aiding them anonymously is permitted, however, provided your identity remains strictly secret even from those you help. It is not interference to correspond with or converse with mundanes, provided you don't provoke them. It is not interference to be identified as a magus or cast spells before mundanes, so long as you don't provoke them. It is not interference to be involved in commerce, so long as the magical nature of the business is kept secret from the world by a mundane servant who acts as apparent leader. It is not interference to offer goods and services to nobles, provided observers cannot tell that you support that noble in disputes. It is not interference to kidnap Gifted children.

Jerbiton magi spend a lot of time traveling simply for pleasure, and also because it broadens the repertoire without formal study. You see, you can't create anything you can't imagine. Travel lets you see things you could never have imagined, allowing you a broader range of things to create or mimic. Many Jerbiton magi are frequent travelers, though difficult travel is best down while young and vigorous. House Jerbiton has two traditions that help with this. The first is fosterage, when an apprentice is sent to live with another magus for a few seasons. Such fosterage tends to be reciprocal, with each Jerbiton taking the apprentice of the other. Jerbiton apprentices who are fostered are encouraged to learn the local language and customs, as well as to meet the magi in the fostering covenant and see their beliefs. It is almost a tradition of the House that apprentices from Valnastium must be fostered in urban covenants and those from other areas must spend a little time in Valnastium.

Many Jerbiton magi also engage in tourism. One season out of every few years, they will just go sightseeing, often with their apprentices. Tourism, especially under the guise of a pilgrimage, is highly popular with the rich of Europe. The House also sponsors travel by apprentices near the end of their training: the Itinerarium. This is meant to mirror the tour of Greece, Ephesus, Tyre and Egypt that many young Romans undertook in the Imperial era, giving a sense of history and potential. The first Itinerarium was actually an accident. In the tenth century, a Jerbiton archmagus named Anna of Naples sent a letter to her sodales, indicating that her apprentice would be ready to join the House nine months before the normal Ceremony of Welcome. Rather than attend another Tribunal's, she had decided to take the apprentice to Constantinople and some other sites for a six-month immersion tour of the City. She gave an itinerary of her planned trip and asked if anyone wanted to come with her. Some came, but six magi asked if their apprentices could accompany her instead. She allowed it in exchange for remuneration and a promise that she would not be responsible if they misbehaved.

The modern Itinerarium is, similarly, an adventure undertaken by apprentices nearing graduation. The House sponsors it and selects the official tour guides each year. The ancient Greek word for a tour guide is 'mystagogue', which the House continues to use despite the meaning it has acquired in recent centuries with Mystery Cults. It is an honor to ban official mystagogue. Informal tours are also common, especially with the splintering of tourists following the sack of the City, the former obvious destination to see the best art and culture. Tours have in recent years headed to Paris or Italy often. The tour of 1219 went from Paris over the Alps to Valnastium, then on to Venice and Rome. The House favors the tour because it broadens the minds of the youth, giving them familiarity with many new things, provides them a spiritual anchor by showing them beauty before they become magi, allows them to meet fellow Jerbiton apprentices and form bonds, gives a chance to perform small transgressions against taste before they are full magi and get it out of their systems, and gives them practice in traveling unsuspected in cities. Occasionally, an apprentice from another House will join the tour, which sometimes leads to it being divided into Gently Gifted and non-Gently Gifted parties, to avoid mistrust, or the assignment of enchanted charms to overcome the Gift's effects. Such charms do not prevent mundane bad reactions, sadly, so it is still a challenge.

Following the Itinerarium, it is traditional for a young magus to express their experiences in a letter to their friends and family. Over time, it has become extremely fashionable to fill this letter with a mix of real events and humorous yet convincing lies. By creating these documents, called paradoxographia, young Jerbitons learn to play the game of symbols that is the foundation for the House's language of etiquette. Older magi read collections of paradoxographia as an amusement, and some create paradoxographia after particularly interesting journies. Reading a collection of paradoxographia is a purely leisure activity, requiring no dedicated time and providing no mechanical benefit.

Next time: Fashion and etiquette

Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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Ars Magica 5th Edition: Houses of Hermes: Societates

Jerbiton magi believe, often, that it is the duty of magi to dress in such a way as to be recognized for their status. This keeps them from being treated rudely by accident, which improves life for everyone. Magi aren't insulted, peasants aren't turned into toads, everyone's happy. Plus, it allows those magi who wish to hide their status to do so more easily by just removing the symbols associated with magi. Most Jerbiton magi who want to stand out wear robes of fine fabric and expensive dye. They avoid purple for its Imperial connotations, but prefer woad blue. Their robes also bear personal designs, leading to the common impression that magicians dress as scholars but have stars on their robes. They sometimes wear liberty caps - that is, pointy hats - because this symbol has become widely associated with magicians due to the Redcaps, though Jerbiton magi do not wear red caps. They enjoy being asked to leave useless staffs at the door when negotiating with mundanes, so they spread the idea that a magus is weaker without a staff. (They do not talk much about the existence of wands.) Servants are also considered an important part of displaying wealth and power, so one should always travel with grogs in order to show that one can afford to and has the power to protect one's self. Poor equipment and unskilled grogs make you look weak and silly, so Jerbiton magi always ensure their servants are well-equipped.

Animals are, likewise, a display of wealth. Horses, for example, are quire important to House Jerbiton. Horses symbolize wealth due to the cost of their maintenance and warfare due to their role in mounted combat. Horses are also widely known to be nervous around and often refuse to carry wizards, so riding one is a good way to hide your status. And, of course, every class of person in Europe has a raptor associated with them, for falconry. The correct bird for magi, as assigned by House Jerbiton, is the lammergeyer, or bearded vulture. They tend to have orange plumage, tinted by rubbing themselves on iron-rich rocks, though those near covenants often get a wide variety of colors. They prefer to eat the small bones of medium-sized animals, which they devour whole, and their bones are good for making magical flutes. Jerbiton magi rarely keep hounds, the other common noble pet, because they more often possess cats descended from those cats owned by Jerbiton the Founder. Cats of the Black Lineage are especially intelligent and can understand human speech, though only a few can speak it. Many have Second Sight. These cats tend to live around 40 years, and possess a parliamentary government which elects its kings. Each cat adopts a family, and some young cats are selected to be familiars. They often possess minor magical powers. The familiar of the current Primus, a cat named Crucifixio, is not the current King of Cats, but may well be elected after the current king dies. The current king is his mentor.

Now, etiquette. The rules of etiquette are obscure but not arbitrary. Their purpose is to allow persons of quality to interact smoothly, and to seperate those trained in proper behavior from mere aspirants. It regulates, codifies and encourages communication. Those skilled in etiquette may use symbolic language to convey messages to each other, and some of these symbolic languages have been codified and written down, so that any magus skilled in etiquette may, for example, decode the meaning of a bouquet of flowers based on the flowers chosen, or the purpose of the different dishes at a banquet. Other messages can be conveyed with references to art or poetic quotes. The challenge, which Jerbiton magi much admire, is for you to merge clarity of message with beauty of expression. Social events are a good place to show off your etiquette in hopes of earning fame or encouraging fame in others...or to tear others down, if you're willing to play at being rude but within the bounds of etiquette. Those less focused on personal fame can instead use their etiquette skills to ensure the event is a success, instead. Spending money can improve etiquette rolls, but only among mundanes - magi are not impressed by monetary gifts, and require rarer and more relevant items.



House Jerbiton maintains a code of conduct for visiting areas controlled by other Jerbitons. It is considered a serious breach of etiquette to vary from this code, and to depart from the code is enough for most Jerbiton (though not other magi) to feel deliberately insulted. Hospitality, you see, obligates both guest and host. The guest magus is expected to announce their arrival, introduce themselves, say why they are visiting and what they intend to do, indicate when they'll be leaving, leave immediately if asked to, offer a small gift (which is not at all considered payment for hospitality), aid the host if required during the stay, be amusing and not leave without telling the host. The host must either clearly offer or decline hospitality so the arrival knows if they are a guest, must offer the guest good counsel (especially of any dangers in the region, and taking particular note of the guest's stated activities), must offer food, wine and a place to sleep, should offer a small gift comparable to that of the guest (imbalanced gifts create debts of honor), be amusing and protect the guest from harm. It is very rude to refuse to offer hospitality, but it is also very rude to demand it. Jerbiton magi visiting each other often send a Redcap ahead to ensure they'll be welcome.

House Jerbiton's structure is very different from most Houses, held together by mutual interest in each other's activities and the charisma of informal leaders. The Primus is an ideological rather than political force, and Valnastium is the only major House covenant. Most Jerbiton magi belong to smaller organizations, or leagues, within the House, which are essentially clubs for magi with similar tastes or goals. The Primus has few formal powers. He has sole right to grant residency at Valnastium to any magus. The Steward of the House, who adminstrates between Primacies, is a resident of Valnastium and therefore is appointed and dismissed by the Primus at his whim. Valnastium is extremely wealthy, and a good portion of that wealth is at the disposal of the Primus. The Primus may attend Grand Tribunal to speak for the House. These and some ceremonial rights aside, however, the Primus is otherwise identical to any other Jerbiton magus. The Primus rules for life, but is required to spend the majority of his time in Valnastium, so many resign to pursue other interests eventually.

A new Primus is chosen when the last one dies, abdicates, is dismissed or goes missing for over a year. At that time, the Steward of the House sends letters to all Jerbiton magi, inviting them to Valnastium for an election. The Steward chooses the time of the meeting, but it must be within a year. Any member of the House may nominate any other member, and technically can nominate from outside the House, but such a candidate has never been elected. The nominator praises the candidate and lays their sigil at the candidate's feet if they are present. Occasionally, Jerbitons honor older sodales with nomination despite knowing they will decline candidacy. The Steward is very careful to not allow anyone to decline until all nominators have spoken, allowing them to potentially heap a great pile of sigils at the nominee's feet. This is considered a great example of collaborative etiquette. Once all nominations are made and either accepted or declined, votes are taken at hourly intervals. The candidate or candidates with the fewest votes are removed from the pool of choices for the next vote. Declined nominations do not affect votes, because those nominees are never considered. A maximum of fourteen ballots may be taken in one day.

On the few occasions where there are enough accepted nominees to take more than a day, most of the first day is weeding out the unpopular. Between votes, magi may engage in politics and debate. When it is clear that a wasteful day is inevitable, young magi skilled in performance arts arrange for entertainment off the cuff, earning good reputations. Unpopular candidates often prefer to decline nomination rather than be eliminated in voting, so such wasted days rarely occur. Every Jerbiton has a single vote, and those unwilling or unable to attend may give their sigil and written voting instructions to any Hermetic magus to serve as proxy, provided the proxy is witnessed by a Quaesitor. The House has borrowed a Papal tradition in that the Primus is not required to honor any promise made while campaigning for the position, though this would probably not hold up before Tribunal if it ever came up. The Primus may be dismissed by the request of a full third of the House for their resignation. These petitions are collected at the annual Festival of Welcome in the Greater Alps Tribunal, which celebrates the graduation of that year's apprentices. Successful dismissals are very rare. Petitions on other matters are also presented at this time, and are more common. Popular petitions do not bind the Primus, but are often convincing enough to open negotiations.

The current Primus, Andru, took the position in 1182 at the age of 43. Many Jerbiton Primi are shockingly young, as the role is rarely sought by elders, whose interests lie elsewhere. Andru's election was assisted by his fame. See, he discovered the site of the lost city Akrotiri on the isle of Thera (that is, Santorini). Thera's people had discovered many magical secrets, had enormous wealth and produced beautiful art. Many of these were recovered from the ash-buried city by Andru, but he has since suspended his efforts because the island is crawling with vampires and his combat skill is not enough to secure the excavations. Andru is tall and muscular, with no beard and short, dark and curly hair. He is dignified in public but warm in private, and he is constantly attended by his aristocratic little cat Familiar, Crucifixio. His Talisman is the red wedding veil of his true love, his wife Carmine filia Susannah of Flambeau. She acts as hostess of Valnastium, focusing on the magic of molten metal, and assists House Jerbiton when extreme violence is called for. Her wedding ring is her Talisman, and she is noted for her ability to inspire art in others. The pair have several middle-aged children and adult grandchildren, none of whom have the Gift.

Andru is a conciliatory Primus and while apparently conservative, he may radicalize the House. He drew Jerbiton away from their constant introspection and work as noble ambassadors, re-centering the House on its original philosophy of allowing members to live as they desired and seek beauty. He initially seemd content to raise his family, resolve minor disputes and restore some of the older buildings in Valnastium. He also sought out Jewish and Islamic thinkers to speak with, hoping to gain permission for the House to travel to Islamic centers of learning, such as Isfahan in Persia. It soon became clear that he was developing a network of agents throughout Europe as he worked to establish that Jerbiton magi should not shun each other over differences in taste, trying to convince them to collaborate on political goals with little success. The shock of the City's fall allowed him to rally the House around a campaign to preserve its artistic legacy, and his allies have become very active in the Latin Empire's politics as well as those of Nicaea and Venice. He has a personal grudge against the town of Amalfi for its theft of the relics of Saint Andrew from Constantinople in 1210. Over the last 15 years, Andru has become a potent ideological force in the House, which will only get stronger when the antigones graduate.

Andru's policy on nobles has both overt and covert elements. He favors contact with senior nobles, stressing the benefits of cooperation and explaining the Code's limitations on intervention. He also maintains a network of covert agents to assist him on important matters. His policy on the Church is rather straightforward, though mired in detail. He hopes to demonstrate that the Gift is a charism, that is, a gift given by God and stamped on the soul, like those mentioned in the Bible. House Jerbiton covertly supports any research on the origins of the Gift, though hostility among the Eastern and Western Churches is such that open acceptance by one might lead to condemnation by the other. Lacking proof of the Divine origins of the Gift, Andru encourages churchmen to judge magi by their deeds.



Valnastium is a beautiful Alpine valley, whose weather is regulated by magic and whose entrance is hidden from undesirable visitors. It has powerful defenses, dating back to the Schism War, and the town and villages within the valley contain almost a thousand residents. During the early days, each Primus would build a palace in the main town of the valley, and when the Primus Petrus of Verdun encouraged his sodales to leave and embrace urban life, these palaces were given to the covenfolk. Most are now the homes of extended families of favored servants or used as public buildings such as hospitals or taverns. The Primus has a small villa on the hill, as the Founder did. Most magi keep rooms in the town but their labs lie within the extensive gardens, which also contain the graves of most Jerbiton magi as enchanted monuments documenting the lives of the dead. The library is a genuine Museum - that is, a temple to the Muses, transported from Greece by the Founder in the correct belief that it would spread a Magic aura. That aura has grown since his day, but has been limited by the presence of the Church of Saint Cyprian, and the aura of the covenant is no more than average. The library is, however, the finest in the order on mundane matters, and has many visitors, so it has a dedicated guesthouse and often receives failed apprentices for scribal training.

Next time: Leagues

Cosmic Afro
May 23, 2011


I absolutely forgot that House Jerbiton didn't like Faeries as a whole. It makes a lot of sense when you look at their philosophies in depth like that.

What I really like about this game is how well they write the 'general' view of philosophies of the various organizations of the Order of Hermes toward several subjects. It really makes them distinct.

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Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

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Speaking of philosophies....

Ars Magica 5th Edition: Houses of Hermes: Societates

Jerbiton magi form leagues based on similarity of interest, and they are driven by the charisma of temporary leaders. Most are small, between five and twenty members, but some, like the Gastronomers, have many more than that. Some leagues continue across generations, while others dissolve when their task is done. A Jerbiton magus may enter many leagues, with greater or lesser passion in some than others. Many leagues also accept outsiders, if a Jerbiton can guarantee their tasteful behavior. The largest leagues all have many Houses within. The leagues also allow House Jerbiton to stretch its ethos over magi from traditions that do not venerate beauty, or who have joined the House for political or philosophical reasons. In another House, for example, an ex-Criamon might found a lineage. In House Jerbiton, the ex-Criamon and their students would form the nucleus of a league dedicated to a particular expression of beauty or some specific facet of the magical arts. New leagues are rapidly joined by interested magi, and soon find ways to describe themselves in terms of the search for beauty. The following leagues are a mere assortment and hardly an exhaustive list.

The Daughters of Echo are interested in magical means of recording and reproducing events. They often dispatch magi to seek out unique performances and events, who must then act inconspicuously among the mundanes or negotiate for access with faeries and spirits. The league's leader is a Merinita who lives near Burnfoot, in Ireland. The league's members support each other by trading recordings and sending missions to record great events and performances. The Maze of Singing Mirrors, where a copy of all recordings made by the Daughters is kept, also sells copies of the recordings to Jerbiton magi who were unable to attend the performances in person.

The Gastronomers take turns hosting an annual, very lavish party. They are interested in politics and friendly competition over who can be the best host. They are led by whomever will host the next party, and the members often assist each other in finding ingredients and entertainment, or in securing the venue, which is always unusual and must often be made safe. Some members begin preparations for their parties years in advance. This league is particularly popular with those outside the House, and is arguably the largest in the entire House.

The Keepers of the Pearl of Great Price work to secretly fight poverty in cities, doing good by stealth. They believe that famine causes the collapse of civilized thought and provides opportunity to the Infernal. They had their headquarters in Constantinople, but it was sacked by the crusaders. They have been effectively leaderless for 16 years, with three prominent members each claiming the right to be leader. Many younger members recently presented a petition to the Primus, declaring that they will recognize as leader whoever can recover the magical sacks, sieves and millstones that were lost in the fall of the City.

The Humble Brethren are a league that attempts to influence the politics of the College of Cardinals, in the hopes of limiting the chances of a fiercely anti-magical candidate becoming Pope. They are based out of Rome, and include four mistresses to Cardinals, one of whom is always the leader.

The New Iconophiles are attempting to recover the artistic treasures of Constantinople. They often spend time in ruins, as thieves or trying to avoid fights. The Primus is their ideological leader, but most of the league acts on its own recognizance. They help each other identify artwork and relics, then steal them. They are based out of Valnastium.

The Ponderers of Weight and Distance are mostly merchants, interested in gaining money via mundane trade. They claim this allows them to sponsor great works of art, and some claim to love the complexities of the movement of people and materials, and how they affect political power structures, as a form of performance art. They like to see how you can upset the life of a court by adding or removing money from the economy, but the Quaesitores have cautioned them against further experimentation based on causing sudden wealth in the courts of small kingdoms via exceptional harvests. Their meddling tends to annoy other leagues, who see them as capricious and prone to ruining the plans of others. They claim to have no leader, and are apparently based out of the Rhineland.

The Silent Ones are dedicated to the integration of silent magic and subtle magic (that is, magic with neither voicing nor gestures, respectively) into standard Hermetic practice, in the hopes of allowing magi to more easily live inconspicuously. Their leader is a Bonisagus magus, and they are based out of his covenant. Their original research is only in the primary stages, and they spend most of their time helping each other find and interview hedge magicians in search of useful insights in the works of the past or among the musical traditions known to House Ex Miscellanea.

The Single Ocean spends its time exploring the cities of the Levant and North Africa, seeking peace with Jewish and Muslim wizards. They tend to travel to far and strange lands, with dangerous travel. Their leader is Edward the White, a specialist in sea magic who is famous for his unsuccesful attempts to discover Atlantis. The official headquarters of the League is technically Ireland, but in practice it's wherever Edward happens to be at any given time, since they use his enchanted ship. Their work is dangerous, so rather than homages to success, they practice rescues instead.

The Viticulturalists believe that there is virtue in peasant life, and so they engage in manorial agriculture with the assistance of magic. Their leader is a young magus named Sabina of Seine, but they lack a headquarters, and instead merely gather at Tribunal meetings and Ceremonies of Welcome. Sabina has a collection of casting tablets for agricultural use tucked away for the league's uses, with spells that improve soil, control weather, raise fences and brand herds. The Viticulturalists visit each other's estates often.

We get some new Virtues, such as Muse, which lets you hand out Free Expression bonuses to any one person, Mystical Choreography, which uses sacred dance to greatly speed the ceremonial ritual casting process, and Supernatural Beauty, which is what it says on the tin. More important, however, are the discoveries that House Jerbiton has made in the domain of urban magic. See, a lot of Jerbitons live in towns and cities, which have over the past few decades been swelling in size very quickly. The Dominion is growing stronger there, and the Jerbiton have had to develop techniques of dealing with it.

Their first discovery was the lacunae, Latin for 'hole' or 'hollow'. A lacuna is a place within the Dominion which does not contain Dominion aura. Most lacunae have no aura, but Faerie, Magic or Infernal auras are possible. Lacunae occasionally move or disappear, and they're no harder to enter than any other place. Every city has a unique array of lacunae, and knowing where these spaces are is vital to the life of an urban magus. Though Jerbitons are the most frequent user of lacunae and the ones who have written the most about them, other Houses also use them, especially House Mercere. Most lacunae in large cities are very small; Paris, for example, has several that are only one room, one that fills the shadow of a single tree, and one that exists only within enclosed coaches on a particular road. Large lacunae do occur, but they are rare and generally very hard to access, often already with powerful owners.

Magi do not really understand why or how lacunae form. Some believe they are the sites of ancient temples, or repeated rituals, or the lairs of potent monsters. Some seem to appear around the labs of magi who use magic in the same place for extended periods. Some say that lacunae form in places of great natural or manufactured beauty, and certainly some lacunae are located in sites of beauty crafted by early Jerbitons that have been overwhelmed by expanding towns and forgotten, while others appear after the completion of exquisite artwork, theatre or music. They tend to vanish when the art is removed or stops being regularly repeated. Some say that lacunae occur when a single activity of any kind occurs so often that the spirit of an area becomes accustomed to it and helps, which is why some bakeries produce consistently excellent yet non-magical bread, regardless of the baker's skill. Some say that lacunae just kind of happen, for no reason.

Because of the Dominion and general distrust of magic, House Jerbiton has classified various types of magic for various purposes. Subtle spells are for when you don't want to be identified as a magus. They must not have some obvious magical medium, so they are often Imaginem and Mentem effects, generally of low power. They tend to be excellent at piercing magic resistance, as a result of their lower raw power, which makes them well-suited to battle against magical foes. More importantly, though, it makes them much easier to cast in the Dominion, or with only subtle gestures and quiet voicing - or even no gestures and voicing. Public Spells are those used when you do not mind being identified as a magus. They allow for obvious supernatural aid, and the majority of spells cast by magi, even Jerbiton magi, are public spells. Generally, you want to be good enough at them to be able to cast them in the Dominion. Last are wilderness spells, spells which you lack enough skill to use outside of lacunae, the wilderness or ceremonial casting and which are not truly usable normally in the Dominion. Many Jerbiton magi, especially older ones, prefer not to learn these at all, since they dislike the effort for something they won't use much.

Ceremonial magic, as a note, is the use of long and complex rituals to empower an otherwise quick spell. By using props and a prepared space, you are able to pour more power in. Props slow the ritual down, and the bigger and more expensive they are, the more power they channel. Very handy, if you have the space to store them and the time to use them. A prepared ceremonial space, which in urban areas are almost always in lacunae, speed up the rituals, making them much faster to cast. Really dedicated ritual spaces can speed it up a lot. The main downside to ceremonial casting is that it doesn't work with most formulaic magic unless you specifically study and master the individual spells to allow it, so you're stuck with spontaneous magic.

Next time: House Jerbiton Magic

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