Reshaping Europe

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica: Transforming Mythic Europe

Transforming Mythic Europe examines ways that wizards can (without any new abilities - just uses of existing ones) completely alter the world of Europe. It also discusses why wizards might want to, and what obstacles might prevent it from happening. The end result does not resemble our world or the way history ended up in any way - this stuff is always through the lens of Ars Magica, and that's important to keep in mind.

There are three main scenarios the book examines: First, integrating the Order of Hermes into medieval society as a full and complete part - a fourth estate, not those who rule, those who pray or those who toil, yet fully part of how people view the world, rather than outside it, as the Order has been. Second, a scenario in which the Order abandons Europe entirely for a new land, created in the oceans by magic. Wizard seasteading. Last, it discusses magi as inventors, creators of new technology via magic and how that can affect society.

So let's look at the Fourth Estate scenario. Magi, of course, are forbidden to interfere with mundane events, and there's a ton of different legal definitions of interference that magi argue over all the time. But, surely, their magic could benefit the world if they did not follow this self-imposed law of exile. How could the world be changed? To become a fourth estate, they must find a position that makes them equal to the Church while nonthreatening to the nobility.

Some magi would argue that the Order is already integrated. However, this is simply untrue. Magi avoid mundane justice, don't pay taxes in most cases, avoid feudal obligations and do not use their power for the betterment of society as a whole. How many magi have casually used Mentem magic to avoid paying tolls or refused to give counsel to nobles in need for fear of Oathbreaking? Who do a covenant's grogs owe feudal service to? What right allows a magus to raise a tower for himself? Magi of the Order do not obey the rules of society save those they choose - they obey only the Code of Hermes.

The book does have an end state in mind here: the Order integrated into European society. They will become recognized and covenants will become legal entities, with the right to rule their own lands and influence governance. Of course, rights are not all that will be gained - as members of society, magi will have responsibilities and obligations as well, along with their increased independence from Hermetic politics. Magi within society are free of the worry over how their actions will be perceived by other magi, may make the world more prosperous not only for themselves for the benefit of their lieges and vassals, and will be able to help the mundane and magical worlds coexist.

The biggest change, at the heart of things, is that Europe will recognize the moral authority of the Order to deal with certain things. Nobles have the moral authority to rule, the Church has the moral authority to hold even rulers to account and the peasantry have the moral obligation to support society via toil. The Order will be granted the moral authority to deal with the supernatural, particularly Faerie and Magic, as it deals with the resto f the world. This is something many covenants already do, but now society will recognize and reward that contribution. This moral authority will be gained when the nobles and church, and therefore also the peasants, kneel to the Order when these situations arise. It will give magi power in politics in a way the Order has never had it. And because the Order is part of society, not outside it, that authority can be widened to other matters via compromise, gaining rights and power in exchange for obligations and responsibility.

So, what rights would the Fourth Estate gain? The Order would have a say in the world, gaining influence over rulers by becoming advisors, controlling covenant lands fully and guiding lieges just as any other ruler might. The Order only has its ability to run its own legal affairs due to its relative obscurity. Currently, should a magus become the victim of a mundane crime, revenge would seem the only option. This makes the magus a criminal, usurping the right of rulers to preside over justice. Under the new way, magi would become legally protected against others...and mundanes would be able to see their legal complaints against magi be brought to court, though a court of magi. This model follows that of clergy and their right to be tried and judged by other clergy.

Further, apprentices are often kidnapped and many rarely see their families again. Few may see it as a loss, but it truly is, to both magi and family. For some magi, it means loss of rightful inheritance - and so the Order will gain right to both land and titles. Magi are not clergy and should not be sidelined when inheritance comes up. Thus, magi can own and dispose of land and income under their own names in the new way, potentially even holding noble titles. Once magi are part of soiciety, covenants are more likely to have legal right to hold their land and will not have to find the increasingly rare allodial land, which is owned by none. The world is changing, with more and more people being born, and competition for land is inevitably increasing. While outside society, the Order cannot use society's legal protections, though gaining right to land includes obligations.

Now, if magi are expected to cousnel both Church and nobles, they will expect to be given dominion over magical and faerie matters. Formal deals can be made over individual resources, promoting the Order's recognized right to auras, regiones, vis, magical beasts and so on, for the benefit of all. This can be achieved only via negotiation at the highest levels - with kings and ultimately the Pope. For this, the Order must be able to appoint negotiators and formalize relations. Covenants will be given their own rights as liege lords over vassals - typically, just their peasant farmers, but in some cases perhaps even knights.

Next time: The Obligations of the Fourth Estate

The Obligations of the Fourth Estate

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica: Transforming Mythic Europe

So, we know what magi could gain now. But what would they lose? No one in European society is truly free to do as they will. Everyone has rules to obey, conventions. Socially, magi would be expected to dress the part - scholars and clerks. Breaking convention and acting outside your social class makes people react badly, Gifted or not. And beyond that...well, Magi will owe feudal service to those who hold land they use. Traditionally, that's 40 days of military service each year, in which a magus must leave their studies. Further, the Order's attitudes on women and the elderly are not the same as those outside it. Would a woman magus be expected to do the same service as a man? Could an elderly magus be expected to do the same service? After all, the longevity rituals mean magi are vigorous even into what would normally be old age. On top of all this, being an advisor isn't service - that's just normal expectation. The wisdom and insight of a magus is valuable, even if there will be some distrust at first. Advising nobles is a key obligation and will draw magi into politics. Magi also gain responsibilities to their vassals, both in behavior and in taking responsibility for their actions. Magi will now have to arbitrate between vassals in conflict, ensure justice and keep their vassals from fighting each other.

So, given all this, why does the Order have any reason to change things from the default setting? Well, for one, they may someday have to. Magi steal apprentices from society, and the world is no longer so simple and easy that people do not seek retribution for it. More and more people live in cities and are wise to the world's ways. Every trade needs apprentices, and while a parent may be happy for a child to join a craftsman, they can at least keep contact then and expect the child's support in old age. Taking a child away as a magus denies that to them. Further, the Order maintains its nominal join-or-die policy on hedg ewizards, which can be problematic. The Order sees it as actinign within Hermetic bounds, but the authorities of the mundane world may not. Killing another outside court process is murder, and the nobles don't like murder. Thirdly, covenants generally occupy lands outside the feudal structure, but within feudal kingdoms. Arguably, no one owns the land, but kings and princes tend to not favor usch arguments, and will expect at least some deference. There is practically no land in Europe that someone doesn't claim...and so when a covenant claims a vis source, who are they claiming it from? The covenant cares for magical harvest, not ownership, but what if the local duke who owns the land puts it to other use? The covenant currently has no recourse. Even something as simple as laws on classes of people wearing certain fabrics can be problematic. They won't become particularly onerous for another century or so, but they can cause trouble, as magi are accustomed to dressing as they like regardless of fashion, convention or local law. And then there's familiars - even beyond the chance of having to chase a beast throughn oble lands, there are questions about whether magi can actually own some beasts. Birds of prey, for example, are trestricted to nobles by law. By influencing nobles, magi can establish these rights for themselves, gain jurisdiction over vis, and gain power.

A working example of Hermetic magi living beside mundane society can be foound in the Transylvanian Tribunal. Even there, however, it's slightly distant - a state of sorts, but outside the purview of kings. The authoritarian model may be unorthodox, but it is certainly efficient. It is also not the Fourth Estate - the Transylvanian Tribunal has seized the moral authority to rule over lands from outside society, while in this scenario, magi seek to take that authority from within.

So what makes this change hard? The Code, obviously. Interference with mundanes. This clause must be heavily clarified or even lifted for magi to be able to act opnely in society as advisors. This could be done simply by bringing causes through the Grand Tribunal, getting the Peripheral Code to enshrine the meaning of 'interference'. Once that's been done and a consensus has been built within at least one Tribunal, the freedom to act openly will be possible. So how do you get there?

Well, it's going to be a lot of work - a lifetime's, perhaps. First, you'll want to get acquainted with the difficulties of living close to yet apart from society. Once you understand them, you should work out what the rights and responsibilities of society are in your ideal world - what magi will accept. Then you'll want to take test cases to Tribunal and push for good judgment. Once that's dine, you should start persuading others to toyur cause. Then head back to Tribunal and start working to clarify the Peripheral Code. After that, go negotiate with the Church and nobility. Take the results you get and go to another Tribunal to get their support. Once all this is done, head to the Grand Tribunal and argue your case.

Change obviously begins with the PCs. They are the driving force, in almost all cases. Many covenant Hooks from the Covenants book will be helpful in learning the bounds of current society and Hermetic interaction, as many force you to interact with outsiders. They provide many potential reasons to seek change. Once aware of the needs, the PCs can begin finding test cases. Perhaps a covenant using a forest finds a noble wants to clear it out, and wishes to stop them, while another covenant feels this would be interference, but allowing the forest to be cut would unleash a minor dragon. Can a third way be found, accomodating the rights of all involved? Once you have some test cases to use as precedent, you'll want to clarify the Peripheral Code - amending and defining language. A Verditius might want to clarify the exact extent and allowance of item sales, while a Jerbiton might want to clarify the definition of interference to allow patronage to artist, or a Flambeau might seek the right to sell their services at tournament to the highest bidder, arguing that since they favor no noble specifically, it is not interference in political affairs.

Most Tribunals are inherently conservative - they don't like to change from their local traditions. Thus, it'd be easiest to start in one of the Tribunals with the most structured and open ideas on interference - places like Normandy or Transylvania. It can also help your debate to get mundanes to come in and testify on your behalf - it's not a lot of help, but every little bit counts. The key is to normalize your ideas as quickly as you can, so that the conservatism of most Tribunals works in your favor. Once you have your coalition of magi and Code revisions ready, you can head elsewhere, bring your ideas with you and using your Tribunal as a precedent. That makes you rather more persuasive to outside Tribunals - if it works over there, well, it might work over here.

Now, House views. These are general - any given magus can easily vary from the general view of their House, depending on personal interests. Still, there is a default response one can expect from each House. House Bonisagus is certainly one of the most resistant Houses - the Oath and its provisions are deeply tied to both Bonisagus and Trianoma. Altering the Oath and the Code denies that either is a work of genius that needs no change. Provisions are one thing - but this cuts at the heart of a key clause! To change it would be disrespectful and dangerous. House Bjornaer is ultimately slef-centered. They have no ideals in this fight - they just want to pursue their own interests. They are tied to the animal world and can see the threats of mundane expansion to the wild places. If agreements with nobles and the church can protect those places, then it might be worthwhile to compromise.

House Criamon see a balance here. On the one hand, their philosophy states that magi are no better than the rest of humanity, and abandoning the rest of humanity to its fate is sinful. That pulls towards integration. However, the House also understands that its quest for the Enigma is vital, and allowing its members to be distracted by lesser concerns of society is bad. It is likely that House Criamon would be aggressively neutral but leaning towards against. House Ex Miscellanea for once has something it can mostly agree on. Many of its lineages are tied to the world and society, and many of them would welcome this change. House Flambeau is more than happy to March on those that break the Code...but they also know what it means to stand by principle even against the Code. And further, loosening the restrictions on mundane interaction would allow them more causes to fight for. Flambeau is tentatively for the change.

House Guernicus cares deeply about the Code and would never allow a key provision to be removed. However, they might allow it to be clarified and altered if they could be convinced it would not trivialize the Oath and would promote good governance. Still, an upward battle. House Jerbiton was on board with this idea before it was cool. House Mercere has very few Gifted members, and by and large will likely abstain from vote. However, they are the closest to the mundane world, being normal people, and they understand the dangers and hardships of the world. If there is a moral case to be made on either side, they are best equipped to make it.

House Merinita , like House Bjornaer, is basically self-interested. They distrust the mortal world on principle, but recognize te vitality that mortals give to the fae, and the loss of lands for the faeries caused by encroaching Dominion. Like Bjornaer, they might be convinced if an argument was made that appealed to their desire to protect the fae. House Tremere , of course, likes anything that makes magi accept responsibility for their actions, and they love the idea of gaining rights in exchange for responsibilities. Plus, they tend to view interference leniently - just look at Transylvania. Of course, they'll expect a change to go along Tremere lines, but they could be a very valuable ally.

House Tytalus are likely fractured on the issue, and will trade votes for favors. Still, the magi aegroti - the leper magi of Tytalus - are likely to have the most consistent view. They are healers and masters of longevity, and their powers are not limited to helping magi. As lepers, they are usually distrusted by others, and so they have a unique perspective on the downtrodden and their views. If any group in Tytalus could be said to truly support the idea, the lepers could. And House Verditius . often seen as greedy and venal, will love the chance to expand their work, gain alliances among craft guilds and gain profit. Profit is a secondary goal, though - every device the Verditius make has a purpose, and too many at present cannot fulfill their purpose because of the inability to send them where they are most needed.

Next time: The Grand Tribunal and the Primi

The Tribunal

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica: Transforming Mythic Europe

So, you've finally gotten the issue of the Fourth Estate to the Grand Tribunal, possibly more than once. The PCs, obviously, are the center of the action, and the politics here are vital. No matter what your preparation, you need the senior magi, archmagi and especially the primi to back you. Let's assume you've managed to be chosen as one of the three Tribunal representatives or have gotten one who's willing to present your issue, so you can talk about it at Grand Tribunal. Now, how do the primi tend to feel?

Garus of Flambeau is a likely ally - he's a leading member of the milites, promoting chivalry and service to the Order, and in his youth he fought in tournaments and was a mercenary. However, his grip on Flambeau is weak, for the House has no unifying goal. If he could win concessions on the role of House Flambeau in mundane war, thus giving the House a purpose, he might be a valuable ally. Andru of Jerbiton is already subtly involved in the mundane world, and he'll back any measure that will let him improve the world, protect art and promote good governance while reducing the risk to Jerbiton. Stouritus of Verditius cares for the wealth of Verditius, which could be vastly improved if he was allowed to sell more to mundanes. An obvious ally.

Murion of Bonisagus is unscrupulous and a schemer, but very conservative. She wants little but to improve her House's power and reputation, and she refuses to go down in history as the Primus who tore down the guiding principles of the Order. Muscaria of Criamon understands her role to be the duty of removing distractions from other Criamon who seek the Enigma. The outside world is a distraction. Muscaria is a young but very pragmatic and canny foe in this fight. Bilera of Guernicus is trying to heal the Transitionalist/Traditionalist rift, and any change that lessens the power of the Peripheral Code or the Oath threatens her House. So long as that threat remains, she will never back any such measure.

Falke of Bjornaer is undecided. She's young and tends to isolationism, mostly out of indecision. She wants the wilderness protected, but knows that many Bjornaer will not want to even begin making deals with the encroaching mundanes. Ebroin of Ex Miscellanea is a magus orbus, a magus of another (canonically undetermined) House who joined Ex Misc. His loyalty and views depend entirely on the GM. Inastella of Mercere is unGifted and cares only about Mercere. She is likely to abstain from any vote, but may provide advice.

Handri of Merinita is secretive and cares more for fae than men, but may not be the target to look at in any case - the last prima, Vinaria, has returned, and may well hold more influence over her House and others Poena of Tremere will support only a proposition that falls in line with Tremere ideology. Trying to get her support for a measure that doesn't resemble Transylvania's work may be difficult. Buliste and Harpax of Tytalus hold but one vote between them, as primi, and so the real challenge is less convincing either one - they'll never agree - but to get them to proxy their vote to someone else who can be convinced.

So, we've convinced the magi. Now we have to convince the mundanes. Unless they benefit, there is almost no one who'd support it. It is hard to guess what magi could offer a king - they have the money and manpower to accomplish most any goal already, and magic would not meaningfully change that. What they might value more is guidance. They need to know what lies in the minds of foes, or what the true situation is in far-off areas. Knowledge is the most valuable thing magi can provide...but who is to do it? Who in the Normandy Tribunal should advise the King of France? What about a sheriff or local leader? Elder magi tend to be more heavily warped and unsettling, added on top of the Gift, so advisers will probably be relatively young magi with Gentle Gifts. On the downside, the Order's egalitarian ways may suffer, as nobles would have more trouble accepting the advice of a woman, so a compromise of values might be needed. Obviously, there will also be regional differences in what kings and nobles want - the Spanish kings might want magical aid in conquest, while those of Novgorod would want defense against the Mongols.

Magi can also provide to nobles an alternative to moneylending. Yes, too much silver can destroy economies...but supposing a noble were given silver that would only be temporary? A loan of funds. As the money is paid back, the magi can destroy it. After all, it's merely conjured wealth. This allows the money to be spent as needed, then removed from the economy once it isn't required any more. On the other hand, whop can say what that would do to the economy? A theoretically infinite supply of money might well render costs meaningless, destroying economies even with the care used. It's hard to say.

And what can magi offer the Church? Knowledge, again. Priests are educated, but magi can offer knowledge of the supernatural, supplementing theological study with real-world experience. They can show priests angels, or the magical forces behind the natural world. They can teach about medicine via magic. With the Church, magi can offer so much knowledge - something the Church values greatly. As educated people, magi should easily be able to convince the Church that their magic is not infernal, for they share a background as educated classes. Many magi are Christians, too, so there is that shared experience. And if the Pope can be made to support the Order, then many will fall in line behind him.

An easy approach to explaining the Order to outsiders would be guilds. Towns and cities might welcome magi if they were understood to be like guilds, especially if it meant being able to regulate them via charters. House Verditius is essentially a guild already, and the Order has experience setting official prices, though they would now need to compromise with mundane authority. There would also need to be a quality enforcement on enchantments, in exchange for rights for the magi - freedom of dress, apprentices or familiars, say, or rights over vis found in town lands. In theory, the Order can compete with mundane craftsmen, but the quality of magically created goods is dependent entirely on the magus' finesse with magic, and varies wildly - as does the ability of mundanes to use magical tools to create. They will need to be taught how to use them properly, which would take much time and effort. Still, it might greatly improve craftsmen's ability to create as they envision things to be.

One of the biggest reasons to do all this is to protect supernatural spaces. Nobles will expect something in return for leaving a faerie woodland or magical area alone. The simplest way to handle this is trade - the spirits or fae offer something in return for control of their homes. Most supernatural beings can reason and make alliances, though faeries are problematic, for they are constrained by their roles. A robber faerie can't offer safe passage - it must rob. Still, faerie rulers can enter treaties and agreements, for it fits their roles. (It is probably far too early to consider marriage alliances, though.) It is common to seal alliances by fostering a child with the ally, ensuring that the value of the alliance is recognized. This could be done with faeries or magical beings. A spirit of the wind might offer its son in the form of a swift horse, in return for dominion over a certain area. The prince who gains such a horse receives a loyal, lifelong companion, and the spirit protects its domain. Magi, obviously, are instrumental in these agreements and mediating between mundane and supernatural beings. Still, this means that vis sources may become more contentious, as mundanes begin to understand their value to those who do magic. They could well misapply such knowledge dangerously, destroying sources rather than nurturing them, or withholding them to gain leverage.

And what of hedge wizards? The Augustan Brotherhood has already entrenched itself among the nobility. They may not be in every court, but could be in any of them. They operate beneath the Order's notice and don't like to share. They will likely work against the Order with lies and misinformation. However, they do find it hard to hide their magical nature, so in doing so, they may reveal themselves to the PCs and the Order. This actually gives the Order an incentive to put their agents in the courts, to minitor the Augustans and oppose them as needed. On the other hand, it may drive the Brotherhood to reveal itself, putting it openly under the protection and influence of the mundanes to protect itself from the Order's join-or-die ultimatums.

The game then provides fairly detailed rules on how to influence mass opinion among the educated via books. You sstart by writing a polemic, sowing the seeds of change as an idea. The polemic is a book that explores and explains a question to show its view as superior to the logical counterposition. This argument thus enters the literate consciousness, usually just of the Order but in theory it could work this way for any literate group. It can then be attacked, via books called diatribes, or supported, by books called apologia. The goal is to build up an argument's strength such that it is superior to the GM-assigned number representing the prevailing wisdom on the issue. The hard part is circulating the texts - a polemic has to be widely read to be effective. An argument built up enough provides bonuses - potentially extremely large ones - to arguing the case at Tribunal.

The book also provides rules on charters. Overall, these rules are 'a charter says what the two parties agree to', and can optionally be given strength ratings for each side involved in the signing, which vary based on the signatories' understanding of law. Once this strength is found, that becomes the difficulty in finding loopholes in that signatory's side of things. Charters are primarily used for land grants, such as those that would protect supernatural auras, or charters of rights and obligations, such as those that would be made between towns and covenants.

Can you use magic to influence politics? Absolutely. Catering to the sick by magic and improving living conditions is an amazing way to get people to support you, as is offering longevity rituals to key nobles. Spells are provided to improve harvests or bring orchards and fields to bloom instantly, as well as spells to guard livestock and example uses of magic to, say, ensure truth in courts and provide justice, to detect if a child is a bastard or to protect against invading armies by destroying bridges or laying waste to fields that might be used.

The end of the chapter briefly looks at similar kinds of change - spreading supernatural understanding, trying to integrate into the Church or even trying to adopt the Augustan Brotherhood as proxies and members of the Order as a new House, for example. House Augustus would then have the duty of dealing with the mundanes. It provides some story hooks and ideas for if, perhaps, some group within the Order tried to break with tradition and do this on its own - a very, very dangerous proposal indeed for everyone - and for how one might go about running the opposite game, in which PCs oppose the change. After all, the obligatiopns are onerous and magi may even begin to associate more with temporal power than the Order itself - exactly what the Order was set up to avoid. Plus, a population accustomed to magic might grow unwary of Hell's machinations!

Next time: A Land For Wizards

A Land For Wizards

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica: Transforming Mythic Europe

The Island of the Magicians draws on a key distinction in the Code: magi can own land, they just can't contest its sovereignty with nobles. In many places, such as England, this means magi can't own land. In others, like Provence or Hungary, magi have held land for centuries. However, there is nowhere in Europe that a magus might claim enough land to found a country without angering a king. So...why not make one?

Your first step, obviously, is building a wall - a hollow island, in essence, to denote a boundary and make your later work easier. This stone wall will also protect the earth within from erosion. A magical wall is one piece, seamless and perfect, and is not bound by the limits of what men's hands can wrought and move. The book suggests stone monoliths two paces thick - thick enough not to be cracked by waves or ships or monsters. They will be supported by fill later. They should be perhaps 30 paces high if you plan for the North Sea - that's enough to reach the bottom there in many places.

The simplest design for our proto-island wall is an open cylinder. This makes a circle suitable for usage by circle and ring magic, which is quite a handy trick, Making it hollow and open-ended gives you more stone to use for a bigger boundary. You don't have to excavate the bedrock of the sea floor, as you would with an inverted cone shape or a shape with pillars. In practice the cylinder will really be a conic frustrum with the tip cut off, to avoid erosion, but for ease of calculation this is identical to the cylinders for most purposes. It is only a level 30 spell to make a wall 3 miles in diamater, a level 35 for a 30 mile diameter and a level 40 for a 301 mile diameter.

If you want to go to a deeper area, you need a bigger wall. For a wall 240 paces high - enough for the deeper parts of the North Sea - you get a third of a mile diameter at level 30, 3.8 miles at 35 and 37.6 miles at 40. Much smaller island, but further from land. You might prefer an open-ended rectangle, for some reason. This is more prone to erosion and does not create a natural circle, but is doable. (Again, it will in practice be a pyramidal frustrum but ignore that.) At the shallow depths, a level 30 spell should get you a square 2.4 miles to a side, a level 35 23.6 miles to a side, and a level 40 236.7 miles to a side. If you really wanted a solid stone cylinder, you could get that. At the shallow depth, level 30 would mean 206 paces in diameter, 35 would be 651, and 40 would be 1030.

You may want to have a wall that is more than a simple geometric shape. It is relatively easy to modify the spells involved to alter the shape with ornamentation or add it later. Creating a crenellated wall, for soldiers to hide atop, is only one magnitude of increase. A fire step is actually even easier. A fire step, see, is a Hermetic development from the Schism War - a raise step behind the wall to allow defends to step up, cast a spell and step down, allowing better concealment than crenellation or even arrw slits. Tremere magi love fire steps, and they just need additional fill later. Making walls higher just means redoing some of the earlier math, and adding arrow slots or stone dropping points to the wall is a single magnitude increase. They are rare;y needed for sea walls - who directly attacks by sea?

You will probably want to modify the wall to add a sea gate later - a gate that lets ships pass into a sheltered port inside, which can be sealed at high tide so that ships won't rise inside and cargo can be more easily unloaded. This is much more efficient than most docks use and protects the docks from erosion. A sea gate adds one magnitude to the spell involved, as a sea gate requires metal parts. An interna harbor wall will require more material, though. Statuary and carvings into the wall add a magnitude unless they are purely an expression of the caster's sigil, in which case carvings are free.

But what if you want a metal wall? Base metals are good for warding off seaweed, especially copper, due to their protective layer of corrosion, though alloys of iron lack this. They are much harder to make, though - two magnitudes higher at base and only 1/27th as large. You need a level 45 spell for a 1.1 mile diameter cylinder, and a level 50 for an 11 mile one. Noble metals are even harder - three magnitudes above base difficulty, and also a bad idea - people will try to raid you for the walls alone. You might use an Herbam requisite in the spell to make a wall that heals itself. You could also use Animal or Corpus, but then your walls bleed and scab, which is gross. Ignem might make your wall burn forever. In theory, you could make a wall of wood or bone, but the North Sea has things that eat both of those, which makes them a poor choice unless warded. Stone, wood and animal bone are all equally difficult to produce and may change the roles of faeries that will come later. Human bone is about as hard as metal and would attract very dark fae and even demons.

So, we have our cylinder. We now have to fill it. There are quite a few large, uninhabited rocks in the North Sea you could steal and use to fill the circle somewhat, reducing what else you have to fill and also giving you stone foundations for larger buildings. Stones may also come in handy for developing an aura, but we'll cover that later. Anyway, start with stealing a rock. Now, we can then add dirt, with a layer of topsoil. You don't need more than two paces of topsoil - even tree roots don't go that deep. So you can use basically anything to fill below that topsoil. For a 3 mile diameter island, you need just about 657 million cubic paces of dirt and soil. For a 30 mile island, 65.7 billion cubic paces. For a tall 3.8 mile island, 8.43 billion. For a tall 38 mile, 843.1 billion. For a square island 3.4 miles to a side, 535 million. For a square 23.6 miles to a side, 51.7 billion.

With magic, a level 20 spell can make 10 million cubic pacs of dirt. 25 can make 100 million. 30 can give 1 billion. 35 can give 10 billion. 40 can give 100 billion. 45 can give 1 trillion. Spare dirt can be used to make an ablative slope around the wall, or to make hills. It is equally easy to make clay, so you may as well use clay for the fill except for the topsoil - it has the added benefit of being able to dig down and find waterproof clay that lacks all the imperfections of normal clay that might cause pottery to catastrophically misfire as well as allow seawater in. This will protect the island's water table.

Stone is much harder to make, but is very useful for key parts of the fill. If you want large stone structures, you definitely want pilalrs of stone in the fill to act as foundations. Stone is three magnitudes above dirt of the same volume and another magnitude if you want mixed stone of various types rather than just one kind of stone. Now, you should also keep in mind: your island has no natural water source at all. So you're definitely going t want to use the vast subterranean areas of the island to make cisterns to hold rainwater. You could also use this to draw water up through walls by building the cisterns in that wy, or you might build cisterns in higher parts of the island, using magic to pump water up in order to give you pressured plumbing via gravity. You can also use the underground spaces to build rooms and storage areas - obviously you have plenty of space above ground, but there's some stuff for which underground chambers are more suitable.

Now, you have surface structures to make on your giant, empty island. It is generally easier to make these after the island - otherwise your spell is getting far, far too complex and also runs into design flaws. Making roads is a fairly simple task. Roads are either dirt, gravel or paved, and Hermetic magic finds gravel just as hard as paved, so why not just make stone roads? It's only a level 20 spell to make a road up to 37.8 miles long. That was easy! Buildings, well, less so. The easiest method, of course, is to make an island with enough leftover stone on hand to make buildings the normal way. However, that lessens the amount of stone for use in the sea wall. A level 20 spell can be used to mass produce identical houses 15 feet wide, 30 feet long and six feet high, with foot-thick stone walls. This makes 5 cottages at a time, which have roofs, though you may need to cut doors and windows in. At level 30, you can make 9 cottages, with hinged doors on pivots. Still entirely stone. An extra magnitude can make the cottages non-identical, and every additional magnitude purely for size multiplies the number of cottages by 10. A different level 30 spell will create 8 of these cottages, a road between them and sewage and water pipes for them. An extra magnitude allows the houses to be non-identical, which many appreciate.

Speaking of pipes, water can be stored in cisterns or lakes, and moved via aqueducts and rivers. Canals and lakes can be used to raise fish or iirrigate crops or move goods. They can also be used for sewers, or seperate pipes or trenches can be made. Canals, unlike streets, can be washed clear daily by tides, removing evil airs. Cities built on canals, such as Alexandria, are noted for their good air and health. Canals built by magi can be wider, deeper and less tied to the water table, allowing for larger cargoes on them, though obviously cargo transports need power - either from the current or from beasts pulling them. Stronger current makes it easy to go downstream but harder to go up Magi might plan for this by designing canals to go in parallel, opposite directions. Again, this is simple magic - level 20 to make a canal up to 1.26 miles long. This can also be used to make irrigation canals and drainage ditches. An added benefit of clay fill earlier means that clay canals don't even need stone lining to keep the water in. A similar spell can make a canal up to 909 paces long that is deep enough for most ships, or 5 miles long at level 25.

So now we have buildings and rivers. We still need plants and animals. It is, again, relatively simple magic. (This magic is not hard; it is, however, very expensive when you add it all up. Vis costs build.) A level 20 spell can create a forest of up to a thousand adult trees. Every magnitude added for size multiplies that by 10, and an additional magnitude lets you precisely control the mix of plant types. A level 20 spell will let you create a thousand cubic paces of acorns, too, or 100 cubic paces of acorns whose mix of plant types you precisely control. You can then spread those and raise them to fruition with less expensive magic. The same level of magic will get you 1.25 acres of grassland. You have around 6000 acres on a 3-mile island. And remember: each magnitude added makes ten times as much grassland.

Next time: People and Animals and Magic

Building Atlantis

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica: Transforming Mythic Europe

So, our island has plants, needs people to take care of it. We're medieval, so we obviously are going to think in terms of manors. A manor is approximately 600 acres, or less if the land is especially fertile. You get, average, 20 pounds of silver each year per manor, if well-managed. That takes between five and sixty peasants, depending on what they're doing to manage the land. An island 3 miles across with average fertility will support about ten manors, about the same as a small county. A 30 mile island will support about 755 manors. A 300 mile island will suppory 75,428 manors. From this you can easily figure out how many peasants you'll be needing. For comparison, England has about 3000 manors, total.

Of course, the island also needs animals. Some will appear even without your work, of course - insects spontaneously generate, and birds and bats will rapidly arrive to live on the island according to its location and weather. Once ships arrive, rats and cats will come with them. Larger animals will need either magi or faeries to bring them. But some vermin you want to introduce yourself. A level 35 spell will temporarily summon a pile of rotting cow corpses, to generate bees, for example. Bees are, after all, vital for flowers.

But anyway, let's assume we've brought in all the cows and horses and deer we want. We have a new problem now: the island, being new and artificial, has no auras, no vis sources, nothing supernatural at all. Now, there are four main ways to develop a Magic aura. First, areas of great natural beauty gain them by innate connection to the Magic Realm. Second, ancient structures slowly develop auras. Third, powerful rituals can leave an aura. Fourth, the presence of magical creatures can create or strengthen auras. So, where are we going to get these things?

Well, if you're lucky. you found a rock in the water that had an aura and built around it. Alternatively, perhaps you found a particularly beautiful peace of ocean and have an aura that goes onto your coast. This will be easier in the Atlantic Ocean rather than the North Sea - the Atlantic, after all, is the epitome of Ocean. Still, such auras will be weak. It's much, much easier to get an ancient structure - after all, you can steal one. Generally speaking, an aura gets stronger for each century it's been around, and some of that potency will be retained even if the structure is moved. Of course, these structures are usually quite large and made of stone. But still, you can move stone, right?

Now, magical residue - this requires magic of level 45 or highter, and such the rituals to create the island are not generally of that level of power, you probably won't have any of those. Still, you might try to hunt down objects with that power burned into them. Now, places with potent spirits do gain auras. However, they tend to prefer to live in auras, so...probably best to get an aura first and then use it to farm spirits. Still, the book does provide two sample creatures that might be brought to your island: a telechine, or an aspect of Phorcys.

Telechines are, or were, a small group of Greek titans - wizard-smiths who created the sickle of Cronus and the trident of Poseidon. Some say they fostered Poseidon. After the fall of the first Titanomachy, the home of the telechines, modern Rhodes, was invaded by Athena's followers, so they fled to the realm of Poseidon, who was always their ally. They emerged from the oceans later, armed with a potent weapon - a poison that could blight the land itself. The Olympians feared this weapon and destroyed the telechines with lightning. It is unknown where the survivors, if there were any, went. Some say they fled and hid beneath the sea. Others claim only one telechine was allowed to live - perhaps the wet-nurse of Poseidon - who went into exile beneath the sea, yet sometimes wanders the world as a human. The weapon of the telechines was the Stygian Water - a tool they could make using Perdo vis mixed with sulfur. The power of the telechines is such that a single one of them could use this vis to produce poison enough to kill ten thousand men, which they can spread with control over storms. Further, anyone who looks upon the true face of a telechine will due - and the telechines are such skilled shapeshifters that they can shift their face to its natural shape for just a moment, striking only one person among a group. Those who descend from the telechines are immensely dexterous, and also usually have the power to command the waters to some extent. However, they are all hated by the Olympian fae.

Now, Phorcys. Phorcys was the Lord of the Barren Sea before Poseidon took it. Men sacrificed to him as the God of Death in the Sea and the Father of Sea Monsters, but Phorcys was never very responsive and so his worship died when the faerie gods began to meddle more openly. You can still, rarely, find a ruined temple of Phorcys in the Mediterranean, and magi could theoretically summon one of his Aspects. Another way to summon one would be to automatically generate it by destroying Dogger Bank in order to render much of the North Sea sterile. (Such an avatar would likely be friendly, for the same reason that an avatar of a bee spirit would likely be friendly to anyone who made a gigantic flower.) Phorcys' Aspects have command over water in all its forms, can create water elementals and so on.

Now, all of this has not solved the vis problem. Vis tends to happen in auras, which we're still needing to bring in. There are three main ways to bring in vis. First, trade for it, though vis is quite valuable and you have little to exchange for it on the island, save perhaps your services. Secnd, you might go hunting for vis in the ocean - especially its depths, which are ill-explored at best, though you'll have to figure out how to survive on the sea floor. Lastly, you can bring in faeries. Faeries are trouble, but they are made of vis, and the most potent can create Faerie auras whole cloth - which, you know, make for a good second best compared to Magic ones. Plus, some faeries know how to distil vis.

The book spends two and a half pages describing a major faerie you might run into: Manannan mac Lir, sometimes called the god of the Isle of Man, who was the Irish god of the sea and sailors, insofar as the Irish gods had portfolios. When Saint Patrick cast him out from the Isle of Man, he set up on the Isle of Arran, though he has long since withdrawn to the Faerie realm. However, the magi of Arran can show you how to get to Tir Tairngire or to Emain Ablach, where the god lives now. Manannan is extremely powerful, and can assume any shape he likes. However, he can never enter the Dominion by any means. He can, however, send illusions to almost anywhere, may sense anything that happens in his domain, may turn woodchips into illusory fleets, can ensure that two people never meet again, kill someone with a single blow of his sword, control ships and objects in the sea, turn into fog, tide or thunder and of course he's an insane fighter. This isn't even getting into his collection of magic items. Besides his sword, he has a breastplate that is nearly impossible to pierce, a ship that can go as fast as he likes despite ill winds, a horse that can walk on water and go as fast as the wind, a cloak that changes color, becomes invisible, hides in fog or renders two people unable to meet again, a bag of crane skin containing the vis of many dead Irish gods, which can grant powers to those who carry them, a cup that shatters when a drinker tells a lie and possibly a helmet of invisibility.

Now, we have our island, but we have helpfully built a boundary around it which we can use for the creation of wards. Besides the obvious wards against spirits or demons, you can make a ward to ensure rain does not fall save for when you want it to. spells to hide the island, spells to command the beasts of the island or see through their eyes, spells to command the trees to fight, and so on. You can set up all kinds of defenses for your island.

We've been assuming you'd use the North Sea. After all, the place is comparatively shallow - at the Dogger Bank and southern North Sea, barely 30 paces deep. Of course, the waves do get bigger in the storms, but you can deal with waves easily, yes? Plus, the local kingdoms make good neighbors - they're weak navally compared to the Mediterranean kingdoms, and they lack the infrastructure to make modern fleets. This is mainly because land war is more common, the sea trade is less well developed and the kings need to spend more time and money keeping the nobles in line.

You may well want to recruit a local noble to be the king of your island. You could pick a peasant, but that's harder to sell - any king will have to prove themself, but base blood makes it much harder. You might pick Frederick II, the Holy Roman Emperor, who would likely send a governor or grant self-governance, but would attract Church enemies. You could go for Isabella II, Queen of Jerusalem, who is seven years old and very distant, and would likely require only funding sent to the Crusades. This would have the added benefit of making the Church happy to protect you politically. You might pick Philip Augustus of France - he is, after all, the great power player of Europe these days and you'll have to somehow deal with him anyway. He'd probably pick a son, perhaps the young (and possibly the bastard) PHilip Hurepel. Richard, Duke of Cornwall, is still a teenager but quite intelligent and, according to history, will become the richest, most cunning politician of Western Europe. His brother, King Henry of England, is fickle, but he is an excellent administrator and very patient for a Plantagenet. History shows that he will eventually buy the title of Holy Roman Emperor.

Valdemar II, the King of Denmark, is an expansionist and crusader, and he might be convinced to stop his conquests - a decision that, in history, he makes after he is kidnapped in 1223. On the other hand, magical aid might just make him more ambitious. Certainly, if he is not king, he will likely try to get involved if the kingdom seems weak or goes to war. William Longespee, Earl of Salisbury, is a bastard son of Henry II - who praised him above Richard the Lionheart . He is loyal, skilled and wealthy, and his mother is immensely powerful politically - she's the wife of the Earl of Norfolk. However, he might lead to English problems, as he is the hated rival of Peter de Roches, who has much power in England. Patrick, Count of Dunbar, claims descent from Duncan Bad Blooded, the king before Macbeth, and believes he should rule Scotland, but no one else cares. His experience and power might make him an excellent king. And then, of course, there's Jon Haraldsson, Moramor of Caithness and Earl of Orkney, who holds land from both the kings of Scotland and Norway. He's quite beloved, though in 1222 he will be implicated in the burning of a bishop, who might be a faerie and who was burned to death in hustory after demanding a tax of butter rather than coin or meat.

Technically, you needn't have a king - you could get an independent count or prince. That won't require a papal coronation, but the ruler will hgave less magic resistance...and also much less diplomatic prestige. You need a leader who can at least nominally deal with your neighbors.

Next time: Supernatural Problems


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica: Transforming Mythic Europe

As a note - the North sea is borderland territory - it could be part of several different Tribunals, and precedent involving the Isle of Man suggests that it'll be the guys camped out there who get to decide which one it belongs to. Anyway, the Church of Rome, of course, calims universal power in Europe, though the east and Africa are hardly bending knee. But you, Wizard Island, must still come to terms with them. And with God. See, you've made a kingdom - and all kingdoms have a patron saint. God might grant you Saint Brandan, the patron of Irish sailors and arguably the saint of oceanic islands. Or maybe the Blessed Cyprian - he might perform a miracle and become a saint. In life, Cyprian was a penitent magician, and House Jerbiton has been watching for his saintly miracles for centuries. Perhaps Saint Nerius, who was in life a Criamon magus and who is the saint of pious magi, though not recognized by the Church. Perhaps Saint Nicholas, the patron of sailors, and whom many local traditions hold is followed by a little demon that torments naughty children. Or maybe you'll be able to pick your saint by questing for their relics, or even creating a new saint, if someone of great piety dies during the creation of your island.

But God is the only one keeping an eye on you. There is a demon appointed to subvert every earthly kingdom. Some say that all of them were Watchers, who fell by marrying into the Race of Men. Whatever the case, however, a demon of a kingdom has great rank in the Infernal hierarchy, and a horde of demons of all kinds will be rushing for your island, vying to become its personal corruptor. Two of the three most potent claimants will probably have their own kingdoms already, but are the least of such demons, for their kingdoms have fallen to the sea. They will use other demons, humans and even you as pawns in their battles to become the patron demon of your new land, and eahc has demonic servants.

The book presents three demons to be potential patron-demons. First is Rumael, the False Neptune, who claims to be Neptune himself, the creator and destroyer of Atlantis. Magi with even the most cursory education will note that Atlantis was ruled by Poseidon, not the Roman Neptune, and Rumael is either unaware that he's using the wrong version of the god, or is including the flaw to mock human stupidity, blinded by his own pride. The False Neptune is sered by the Wicked Boys of the Third Square, who take the form of tiny yet muscular men with the heads of horses, who wear armor made of bronze plates, and who bear pitchfork or perhaps trident designs on their backs. The Wicked Boys wield tridents, may walk through solid objects - including weapons and foes - and are vulnerable to even small fires. Rumael may control storms, water and horses, to better his disguise, but all are clearly Infernally tainted if he does not work to hide them. He may also summon wealth to give to people, though always from wherever its absence will make the most trouble. Rumael appears as a bearded man in a robe, armed with a triden, with neddle-thin fish teeth. He is weak to the touch of flame. Rumnael is accompanied by a horse, often with the tail of a fish, or a dolphin, which in truth is always part of him rather than a seperate being.

The second demon given is Neqael, the Lady of the Purple Bower and Corrupter of Lyonesse. She takes the form and has the reputation of being a fae-blooded but mortal noblewoman of immense wealth and wisdom. She is a corruptor of noble etiquette, specializing particularly in the corruption of the emerging principles of courtly love. Her great joy is to suck the meaning out of fine alove, making it a sham and mask for adultery. Neqael corrupted yet did not destory the half-imaginary realm of Lyonesse. Most who are aware of Lyonesse believe it was swallowed by the sea as a divine judgment on its wickedness; in truth, it was destroyed by the demon now known as the Red Knight of Ys. Neqael and the Red Knight despise each other and would even ally with magi to humiliate, harm or defeat each other.

Each is aware that magi usually refuse to deal with demons but can pass for human with care, so they may just lie about what they are. Neqael is served by a strange tribe of succubi, who cannot attack those who have tried to seduce them. They may not have sex with mortals, and so instead must manipulate their victims, generally seducing humans in pairs, each using the body of another victim as the instrument of sin. Some of these succubi select particular humans to be their champions and train them in courtly seduction. These succubi are known as the Mavens of Etiquette and appear as beautiful men and women - the women in lace and furs, the men in leather and with rippling muscles. They may change gender at will, and are supernaturally skilled liars. Naqael is superior even to them at lies, may take on any shape and has an immensely potent ability to duplicate divination magic. She appears fairest by candlelight or in her bower, and has milky skin, fair hair and grey eyes. Under direct sunlight, her skin is yellowed and her eyes are hollow.

The Red Knight of Ys is known also as the Bringer of Requested Inundations, and he is a demon of drowning. His greatest achievements are the destruction of entire kingdoms, such as Ys and Gwenolod, but he is also responsible for some of the towns that have sunk beneath lakes in the Alps, destroying merchant ships and thousands of people drowned in rainwater butts. However, the Red Knight has a strange compulsion - he may harm people only once a mortal gives him permission. He destroyed Ys, in exchange for a kiss and an unspoken promise of love, gave him the key to the kingdom's sea defenses. He claims his victims deserve what they get and that he is God's chastiser, yet he knows this is false. The mortal who gives him permission must have some social connection to his victims, such that they are betraying the victims. Even a rival covenant, though it betrays the Code to call on him, is not sufficiently intimate a betrayer to allow the Red Knight to bring his floods against the island, though - he needs the family of a magus, the apprentice, the familiar, the lover or the trusted servant. He prefers to kill those who give him permission, but if this cannot be done, he typically selects as his next temptee someone who hates the survivor.

There are tribes of merfolk along the coasts of France and even further afield when interacting with breton sailors who claim descent from Ys, saying that they were turned to merrow by God's mercy when the sinners of Ys died. These merfolk have a traditional hatred of the Red Knight, or claim to have one, and would gladly die to see him destroyed. The Red Knight, as a not, appears in empccable, enamled armor or rich scarlet clothes. He is redheaded, with a jaunty moustache and arching eyebrows, and has a roguish and charismatic demeanor. He has no Infernal servants, though he does often travel with a mortal squire or valet. Said mortal generally seems unaware of his true nature.

Beyond demons, the Church may well be a problem if your island is settled by non-Christians or heretics. Pope Honorius III is a great crusader-pope, much in favor of the Reconquista, the Baltic crusaders and Cathar crusade, as well as support of the Latin Empire of Constantinople and the invasion of Muslim lands. He won't be bothered by another theater of war. His first move would be to send evangelists to convert the populace, generally the Order of Preachers - that is, the Dominicans - who speak the local language and will martyr themselves if needed. If this fails, he will call for crusade. A crusade could easily expand to target all covenants - those against distant pagans, after all, are always accompaniedb the abuse of conveniently close Jews, who are also unbelievers. If it's clear the crusade will happen, then powerful figures in Guernicus, Tremere and Jerbiton will form a coalition to figure out how to clean up the mess - and their options do include 'kill the PCs and sink the island.' The PCs will, of course, be tipped off by their allies in the coalition and have time to convince an emergency Tribunal not to cast them from the Order. You might sidestep this whole issue, of course, by creating a servitor race rather than using human settlers - a kingdom of intelligent, magical animals will have its own unique and bizarre effects on the politics and theology of Europe, left to the GM to consider.

Now, mind you, the pope's resources are stretched thin. Offers of help with other crusades may sway him enough to allow the PCs to name the king he will appont, pick bishops or convince the pope to let the local bishop report directly to Rome rather than an archbishop. Honorius is, however, implacable in his opposition to Jews and Muslims working in Christian royal administrations, particularly in roles involving money. If the PCs promise not to directly employ Jews or Muslims and to add the Order of PReachers in their conversions, then Honorius might be convinced not to order them be expelled or murdered. We also note that a particularly useful role at the moment might be merchant emporium to the north, though in time this will lead to conflict with Venice. At present, they lack the power to send a fleet to the North Seab ut have the funds to bribe the local nobles into fighting for them. Of course, there are covenants who would happily aid the PCs in reprisal against Venice for favors.

So, what if we don't want the North Sea? The Atlantic Ocean might be a good spot, given the preponderence of natural power there, but its depth is a complicating factor if you want a big island. It requires a level 40 spell to get a ring two miles in diameter, a level 45 spell to get 22 miles, and a level 50 to get 226. A level 55 spell would create a ring 2259 miles across. It is just over 1500 miles from London to Constantinople, and filling such a ring would be a monumental task in itself. There are a few rocks in the Atlantic to build around, at least. There are the Purple Islands discussed in Ancient Magic , which have auras, vis and trade goods already, but are also ruled by a caste of magicians. That might be a beneft, though - conquering them may, arguably, not break the Code. The Scilly Isles off Cornwall are officially owned by the Abbey of Tavistock in Devon after a land grant by Henry I, but can be bought - with the approval of the king, anyway. It would cost much more for them to no longer be part of the kingdom, however. The Saint Kilda Archipelago, whose largest island is Hirtir, lies far west of Scotland and has maybe a hundred people on it already, descended from Vikings. It is claimed by no outside power, with the possible exception of petty rulers in the Outer Hebrides. The people are nominally Christian, but with many pagan practices incorporated, and the islands are home to several megalithic sites. There are also plenty of islands off of Ireland, some of which are already claimed by magi.

Okay, but that's a bit too hard. The Baltic Sea is, on average, 60 paces deep. That means a level 35 spell will make a ring 15 miles across, and a level 40 will make one 150 miles across. Notably, that second one is too big for the Baltic Sea . The Baltic islands are owned and claimed by various kingdoms, though with the obvious exception of Gotland they can be bought for a large enough sum. Bornholm is currently contested by the King of Denmark and the Bishop of Lund, while the Ertholmene Archipelago is uninhabited, but lacks good sea room around it. Or maybe the Black Sea - it's on the edge of the Hermetic world, between the Theban, Transylvanian and Novgorod Tribunals. It averages 1420 paces deep. A level 35 spell will give a ring a little more than half a mile wide. A level 40 will up that to a little over six miles. And a level 45 will give us a little more than 63 and a half miles. There are hundreds of faerie isles in the Black Sea, only one of which is geographically stable: Snake Island, described in Against the Dark .

Okay, about the Mediterranean? That means more potent spells - it average sout to 1630 paces deep, with lower wave height than the Atlantic. A level 35 spell will give you just over half a mile, and so on up the chain. There are some islands to claim as a core. There are three small ones near Sicily - Lampedusa, Linosa and Lampione - that are close enough to be contained as a single land. Lampedusa was once a Roman colony manufacturing fish sauce, so maybe an ancient temple could be dug up for an aura. Lampione, according to local myth, was a stone dropped by a cyclops, so might have a Faerie aura. There is one problem - you end up right next door to both the Holy Roman Emperor in Sicily and the Arabic wizards of Tunis. Now, Malta is currently ruled by a count owing fealty to the Holy Roman Emperor, so caliming that would be an act of war. The Balearic Islands are currently an independent taifa, though the local Christians want to conquer it eventually. They have been previously settled by Romans and the structures of that time do survive. Indeed, the place was temporarily a province, with a temple to Mercury underneath what is currently the largest mosque. Magi who seize te islands might be able to make peace with the local Arabic states, as none effectively control them regardless of their claims, and a crusade against them might gain the pope's favor. All of the islands off Greece are part of the Theban Tribunal and many have covenants, so they're unlikely to welcome you. Oh, and the islands off the coast of Dalmatia are not owned by House Mercere, but the Transylvanian Tribunal has granted them all rights to vis from those islands, so don't try there.

But, I hear you say! I am a wizard, I want a floating island! And this is certainly possible. You can do this by making your wall a circular cap of pumice, which floats in water. A level 30 spell will make a cap that, if 35 paces at its deepest point, is just under 800 paces wide. Level 35 will give you just under a mile and a half. Level 40 will make one 14 miles across. You'll have to find a way to steer the damn thing, though - perhaps calling a vast magical monster to aid to tow it in exchange for something. You might also make magic items to push, drag or teleport the island around, or just make a spell to control the island directly.

Next time: Magic as Technology


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

I am really impressed by the historypost and I'm looking forward to seeing more!

Ars Magica: Transforming Mythic Europe

So, technology. Because the laws of physics differ in Mythic Europe from the real world, technology will not develop the same way - and magic will almost certainly be a vital part of it. Magi are the most powerful uses of magic - well educated, versed in philosophy and terrifyingly powerful. However, they are also craftsmen - creators of potent items useful all over society. Magi could become more than artisans - they can become inventors. The book notes that it is fully aware that most games of Ars Magica try to avoid anachronism and 'magitech', because of how transformative technology can be. It is going to explain to use what will happen if magical technology becomes widespread - not just magi, but everyone.

The first invention covered is scrying as a communication system. After all, in our modern world, mobile phones are everywhere. It shouldn't be odd for players to want to invent similar things. The utility is obvious, of course, but the impact must be carefully considered. Most of Mythic Europe has no contact or exposure to anyone or anything further than a week's travel away. Language is a barrier to everyone who doesn't speak Latin - two groups on opposite sides of a mountain or even a river will speak different dialects or even different languages, and these tongues are distinct because there is not much cultural exchange. Increased communication will bring a gradual globalization of language and culture. Note that some covenants already have magical communications - the transformative power of them is only realized when they become commonly available to mundanes as well as magi.

The subtlest form of magical correspondence is remote writing - an enchantment in which a message written in one place appears in another, There are a number of ways to do it, and the book offers two but doesn't even pretend to be exhaustive. Remote writing is not useful for conversations - it's mainly useful for sending information, asking for help or sending news. One key advantage of it, however, is that there is no way it could be misconstrued as illegal scrying by a Tribunal or even accidentally used to commit a Hermetic crime. It also assumes the recipient can read - safe, if the recipient is a magi, but more restrictive among mundanes.

The first example are the Quills of Arcane Correspndence. They are actually two magical devices - a pair of perfectly identical goose quills. In each quill, the hollow shaft is filled with an arcane connection to the other, fixed to last indefinitely. The enchantment is simple: whatever is done with one quill is copied by the other, including dipping the pen in ink and writing on a page. The item is typically left in a careful position atop a sheet of parcement, with an inkwell placed exactly and always full. Failure to follow these procedures may mean the message fails to be reproduced due to lack of ink or parchment. Only one quill need be enchanted if you only want one-way communication. These devices would more common in the Order were it not for the Aegis. Two covenants that wish to use these devices with each other must make one in each Aegis and exchange them. The items could still be made by the same person in both locations, so long as they were included in both Aegis rituals or given tokens for the duration of the work. However, this still limits the ease of creation. A variant device uses enchanted bone styluses and wax tablets. This has the advantage of not needing an inkwell, but has less flair and so is less appealing to most magi. Quills also offer superior enchantment bonuses to scribal magic such as this. Theoretically, you could expand the scope by linking several quills together, each with an Arcane connection to each other or to a master quill. This would allow secure communication to several targets at once. And, in case you were wondering, you could in theory use this enchantment to write multiple copies of a book at once, but the inability to see the remote text means the copies are poor reproductions - you'll be using your Finesse in place of the Scribe ability, but with a sizable penalty and a sizable reduction in the final quality of the copies. Still, the enchantment is fairly simple - a level 19 effect, assuming you never want to use it more than twelve times a day.

The Unsubtle Knife is the second example, designed by the magus Atrox of Tytalus to issue orders to his agents scattered throughout the region. Atrox keeps an Arcane Connection each agent's home as a matter of course. The knife itself is a simple silver knife, and the enchantment is a level 22 one. When the knife is used to write on a flat surface - often by being dipped in ink on parchment, carved on a table, or even cut into flesh - and kept in contact with an Arcane Connection to the target location, the message will appear at the location and persist until the next rising or setting of the sun. Atrox's particular version, due to his sigil, appears in the form of writing in blood.

But maybe you want to use clairvoyance and clairaudience . Technically speaking, scrying is the use of Intellego magic via Arcane Connections, but legal definitions in the Order have extended the term to refer to any use of magic to spy or aid spying on a magus. When magi talk about scrying, though, they typically mean clairvoyance, viewing at a distance, or clairaudience, hearing at a distance. Rock crystal is the most potent form of item for scrying enchantments, followedb y electrum and silver. Mirrors are a common shape, as well, for their inclusion fo silver and their benefit to enchantments that display images.

The simplest scrying device is the Earring of Whispering Voices. It enchants a piece of jewelery, usually an earring, which aids in hearing effects. Sometimes, these items are made as matched pairs, to allow two people to communicate over any distance. The owner of a paired device that doesn't want to be overheard should probably remove the earring and put it in a box. The main issue with this is that the device must penetrate Magic Resistance to work, so the earrings are tpyically designed to make a brief noise to indicate their activation, so a magus may suppress their Parma to be able to be heard. Otherwise, the device must be entrusted to mundane servants who can accurately relay messages. This is done via two enchantments - first, a level 8 enchantment that causes the earring to make a brief noise, often a bell's note. This allows the owner to know that someone is about to use or has used the other effect. For a two-way device, it is typical to then activate the same effect to indicate that they are listening. The second effect is level 12, and allows the user to hear the voice of someone to whom they have an arcane connection in hand.

To get a bit more complex, there is the Hermetic Speculum, typically designed as a polished crystal sphere or a silver-backed mirror. These devices are well-known as magician's tools among sorcerers, who use speculomancy, the art of divination by mirror, for their credulous masters. They are often charlatans, hedge wizards or both. The Hermetic Speculum can also be used as an anti-scrying device, or a communicator. There are two enchantments built into the Speculum. First, the wielder may summon the sound and image of someone to whom they have an Arcane Connection, so long as the target has no Magic Resistance. They see nothing and hear nothing of the target's surroundings. Second, the Speculum is enchanted to react to any magic of level 30 or lower that is used to spy on its bearer - even if the magic failed to penetrate Resistance. When it detects scrying, it glows with a soft light. This could be used to indicate that someone wants to talk...or is eavesdropping.

Perhaps the most effective example for two-way communication is the Effigy of the Errant Image, because it does not require pairing devices. The user creates an image of themself at a distant location, and may then see or talk to anyone present there. The primary disadvantage is that the enchantment is quite potent and difficult to create, not to mention expensive. Tribunals have generally ruled that the Effigy is not an illegal use of scrying, since there is no attempt made to hide the magus using it. The Effigy is a small wooden statue of a person, and when used, it can make your image vanish from where it is and appear at a location designated by an ARcane Connection placed in the statue's hands. The wielder can speak at that location and hear any responses, as well as see anything they could see if they were actually there. They may not leave the immediate vicinity, but have limited movement within it. While their image is dislocated, they are invisible and inaudible at their true location, though anything they do at the true location is mirrored in the distant image. The iamge may not enter an area protected by the Aegis unless made within that covenant or used by a caster included in the Aegis ritual. It's a level 40 device.

Now, the main trick here is that all of these scrying devices could be used to scry on a person, and if upgraded a touch, could even view entire rooms. However, if a magus were in such a room, the user of the device would have scried on them and thus committed a High Crime. Designing a device with a Penetration of zero ensures that this will not happen...but it also prevents communication between magi. This why two of the devices above have methods of signaling the recipient, so they may suppress their resistance, but that means more resources are needed to make the items. Few Tribunals would convict a magus of use of a twinned device to spy if both people involved knew of the function of the device and who had it. Deception about that might be constured as entrapment. However, there are still ways to break the law with these devices. If antoher magus is in the area when they're used, their image or sounds could be transmitted against their will, and that is undoubtedly scrying. If a magus were to get one of these, innocently or not, and were spied on, then they have legitimate legal claims if they were ignorant of the enchantments - even if they stole the device. Remote writing, of course, has no such legal perils. Even if you see a message not intended for you, you haven't been scried on. You might argue that you scried on the intended recipient, but that's a really bad legal argument that probably will be rejected out of hand.

There's another problem: it might not work. The Order is very cautious about scrying magic, due to the Oath, and might well forbid magi to present such magic to their servants. For safety's sake, any devices menat for mundanes should be made without penetrative ability, to ensure they are taken to be innocent. However, this means such devices are useless for communicating with magi, and so their spread is much less likely. Remote writing devices are less of a problem here - they can be made, then given to an ally, allowing the ally to communicate to them easily. You might not like handing out permanent Arcane Connections to items in your covenant, though, even to trusted friends. Once those are out there, it's far too easy for enemies to get them.

Next time: But how does it change the world?

Cell Stones

posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica: Transforming Mythic Europe

It should be noted that all magical communication is reliant on Arcane Connections, which generally must be made permanent so they remain usable. If scrying technology becomes widespread, the potential areas of contact and view are going to be limited due to the time and vis needed to do that. Still, it's labwork easily assigned to apprentices or junior magi, or even some hedge wizards. There might be public collections of carefully labeled Arcane Connections, made available for borrowing in exchange for Arcane Connections to the borrower and a small deposit, both to be returned when the borrowed Connection is. This would make it much easier to get reference material for Arcane Connections, and to track those who use them.

In any case, societal impact. Everyone knows that knowledge is power - and that speed of information is vital. Knowing a battle's outcome seconds after it happens is much, much more useful than knowing it days after, if you're a nation away. A cunning nobleman could make great use of this, and might well pay a premium to ensure exclusive use of it, which would need to be kept completely secret. After all, any attempted patent would not survive the revelation of the device - it's far too easy to make, and far too useful.

A scrying society might result from such a revelation, as more and more nobles turn to the Order for similar devices. Each design would have its own quirks, as there would be many inventors - the Order doesn't really do 'industry standard' devices, preferring to have debates over whose designs are better and at what. Such devices will almost always be designed on a seven year expiry - magi are far from being above planned obsolescence, to increase demand in repeat customers. The most basic twinned-quill devices will have been vital to merchants, who can now place orders with suppliers without needing couriers or can tell their vendors when orders are ready, creating demand in advance. Bankers can use the items for remote authorizations, allowing near-instant transfers of funds. Rulers can talk to their vassals, allowing orders in war to be sent clearly and unambiguously. A town will commonly purchase a quill for several locations, to be held in common by the townsfolk, allowing contact with distant relatives. Reputations are now more easily gained and much harder to lose, as news and gossip travel over wider areas.

In this society, the first Hermetic Speculum would be commissioned by a prince of the Holy Roman Empire to better observe battles, but has since fallen into general use. Some cities even have them for general use, made in particularly large size to allow multiple images at once. At first, these were used just to look at scenery and monuments, then became used for communication en masse via proclamations, leading to the formation of a Town Crier's Guild to handle announcing news via the Speculums. Enterprising entertainers have begun to sell Arcane Connections to their performance hall, advertising dates and times to tune in, provided you have the proper Speculum design to do it. This gives them an immense audience, allowing their reputations to spread far and wide.

There have been public scandals thanks to the scrying tools, too, as scrying revealed secrets hoped hidden, and there has been much debate about the right to privacy. There are some who are more than happy to gossip about what they see, but the recent fad is for scrying-detection devices, or even devices to stop scrying entirely. (Relatively simple to do via illusory spells that safeguard an area.) The Order has begun receiving requests for ways to clandestinely intercept magical communications, which would require getting an Arcane Connection to one of the devices and creating a third one - and even then, only half the conversation would be heard unless you got connections to both devices. Interception of secure communications just isn't easy to do.

Next time: A magical printing press?


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica: Transforming Mythic Europe

So, why would we want to find a way to copy books with magic? Well, it lacks the problems mundane scribes bring - the ideal here is a perfect copy, with no flaws whatsoever. Magic can get closer to that than any mundane scribe. This would make the production of books on magical topics much better - a scribe has to learn some Hermetic theory to avoid corrupting copies even in the best of case. There are, however, some problems with doing this, tied into the limits of Hermetic theory. They aren't really part of the Limits of Magic, though.

First: there is no Art that covers knowledge. Magi cannot create knowledge directly - they can only manipulate it indirectly. Knowledge is part of the mind via memory and imagination. The memory stores ideas and experiences, while the imagination stores sensory input. Inscribed memories are the core of what forms skills and knowledge, fixed in the memory via study and experience. Magi have only begun to study magic related to this part of the mind and currently have no means of transferring inscribed memories between minds, even though Mentem can handle other kinds of memories.

Second: Magic can't read or understand. Intellego is sometimes mistakenly referred to as the Art of Knowledge. However, all Intellego does is acquire information - it has no power over that information. Likewise, Mentem is the magic of the mind, not of the contents of the mind. Learning is not part of either Intellego or Mentem. Words on a page relate most closely to the Art tied to the components of the ink - Herbam or Terram, usually - or the page - Animal, for parchment. Manipulating the words by magic gives no sense of their meaning. There is no spell that can translate a written word between languages, even though such magic is simple for spoken words. This is because Mentem can derive meaning from the speaker's mind, but has no such power over written works, which do not think.

The simplest way to copy a text would be to use Rego magic to reproduce the work of a copyist. You will need finesse over your magic, and you'll obviously need a copy of the work you want to reproduce. You will also need clean parchment and ink, though no other tools of the scribe, as they are part of the process, not the result. Because magic can't read, this is a two-stage process. First, a spell is used to lay an image of the text on a blank page. Second, Rgo magic is used to follow the image's impression. This is midrange Imaginem magic, followed by quite simple Rego Aquam magic. That is, the spell is easy to cast - the hard part is controlling it, which requires great skill and finesse to avoid flaws in the copying.

That will let you copy one page at a time by repeating the spell over and over. That's slow - a book is usually much more than one page. It takes a skilled scribe about two days to fully copy, tidy up and illuminate four full pages of text. Your typical tractatus has around 160 pages, and takes a full season of work to copy. (That is, 80 days - scribes do not work on Sundays or holidays.) Your typical summa has 25 pages per point of Level. Because it takes a scribe at least one full season to copy a book, that is a full season's work to do in a single spell. The magic itself is, again, simple enough - but the finesse and control needed are much harder - in fact, almost no magi alive have that level of finesse.

Now, on top of this, you'll also want to have resonant materials for binding. Unbound books have to be bound as a codex, as when unbound, they are easily damaged or lost. Further, without the wooden boards holding them together, parchments easily warp out of shape. Now, almost no magus is going to want to cast the same spell a hundred times over and over. It'd be more efficient to get a magic item to do it. And so, the Superb Scrinium . It can copy and bind a book in mere hours, but it does have disadvantages. It is expensive to enchant - 12 pawns to prepare, and another 12 for the effects. It takes at least six seasons to make. It can only copy single sheets or codices, not other forms of book, like rolls or tablets, and can only copy on one side of a page. (That last one is fairly common with parchment, though.) The biggest problem, though, is that the copies are rarely perfect. They lack resonant bindings and require a lot of Finesse in the operator to avoid mistakes. There's no way to get around that - it's fundamental to Rego craft magic. It would be possible to fix the resonance issue by using a slightly more potent enchantment and getting resonant materials prepared beforehand.

The Scrinium is...a scrinium, a writing desk meant to be put on a table. It is ornately carved and has some alabaster slabs. You put a book on one of them, opening the back cover, which triggers its image-replication spell. It can copy text onto any animal- or plant-based material, if ink is put in its inkwells that is appropriate to the material. Wooden boards, glue and twine are put on another slab, while blank sheets go on the third. You move sheets from the middle slab to the slab with the binding materials, one by one, to trigger the copying. In this manner, a 300-page text can be copied in about one and a half hours, taking about eighteen seconds per page. The device relies on its user's Finesse score, so generally only magi can operate it, and without great skill will produce poor copies. There is no inherent proofreading, though such a spell could be included in the design. The number of books that can be done per day, in the basic design, is three - after that, the image-copying spell stops working, as does the book-binding spell. The entire thing has little in the way of difficult spells - the difficulty is in the Finesse needed to use it.

In theory, lab texts can be copied in the same manner, though of course any duplicates would still be encoded if the original is. Lab texts are generally much shorter than other books, though they are often in stranger forms than a simple codex - wax tablets, metal sheets or even chalk drawings on walls are not uncommon. Further, they are much less unforgiving of flaws. A lab text must be copied exactly, or else it is corrupted and useless. Any failure must be redone. (Optionally, the GM can allow flawed texts to be usable, but dangerous - they introduce unwanted risk and flaws into the result of anything made with the lab text. Alternatively, the GM can rule that it is just flatly impossible to copy lab texts with magic due to their sensitivity to error.)

Next time: The Order's response.


posted by Mors Rattus Original SA post

Ars Magica: Transforming Mythic Europe

Last time I was here, I talked about how you might make magical printing presses. Now let's talk about the Order and its response. The Order typically sells books among magi, and arrangements to pay for the right to copy a book are fairly common. Technology to instantly copy a book would rapidly change things. Some of House Bonisagus would be against it - if knowledge is not hard-won, they say, where does the sense of responsibility come from? Further, mass production of books anonymizes the authors, lowering their personal acclaim. House Jerbiton, meanwhile, is largely disgusted by the very idea - it cheapens knowledge for the sake of power.

Any magi who believe in self-sufficiency hate the technology as well. Many, perhaps most Tytalus magi feel that knowledge and power are worthless if not earned, after all. House Guernicus is worried primarily about the implications of the books - in the present, where books on Magic Theory, the lore of the Order and the Parma are rare, it's easy to contain them. Mass production changes that - it will be very hard to keep such books out of mundane hands...or worse, the hands of the Order's foes. They will, if nothing else, work to ban the production of any books on the Parma Magica at the least.

Houses Bjornaer, Merinita, Criamon and Verditius largely do not care about the change. Their knowledge is esoteric and cannot be truly hidden on paper with inkj - it must be earned by ordeal. They might mildly support things if it means more books to study, but would also fear the discovery and recording of their secrets by outsiders. After all, widespread knowledge of a mystic ritual does weaken it. Secrecy is power. House Mercere, of course, does not give a shit. They're still needed to transport the books, after all.

Both Houses Tremere and Flambeau are quite in favor of mass production, as it allows a more rapid rise in power, and a more efficient Order. Those members of Bonisagus who don't hate the stuff on principle will adore it for its ability to disseminate knowledge. Some of House Tytalus will support the new technology because conflict can be caused from and manipulated by the control over texts made available. The more political Ex Miscellanea are eager to get their hands on books, due to their fears that they have been kept from knowledge by the rest of the Order, as second-class citizens. Mass production may evne allow them to spread and presreve their traditions.

Of course, there is one problem: the Cow and Calf Oath. This is, simply, the oath that a book's purchaser or recipient takes, not to sell or give copies of that book without permission from the original owner. This comes from a Hibernian Tribunal ruling, and is not legally binding in any other Tribunal yet, but is exceptionally common as a gentleman's agreement between magi. For some rare or exceptional books, the oath is formally sworn and signed to give legal weight. High quality books take seasons of work which few magi will do if it means pissing off the author. However, mass production technology makes it fast and easy - so more tempting to break. As it stands, the Cow and Calkf Oath is not part of the Code outside Ireland, so it can't be assumed to be legally binding. It's been debated in the past, but so far no rulings at Grand Tribunal have come of it. This may well change if easy copying is made widespread.

After all, intellectual property and value become mopre important if it's easier to spread. This Oath does not protect texts belonging to non-magi, of course, so this invention may well change Europe even if magi can be assured that their texts will not be so easil copied...though it would take a very altruistic wizard to pursue the considerable effort and vis that it would take to make this sort of thing happen for no chance of profit off their own library...which almost certainly is bound by the Cow and Calf Oath.

But suppose we imagine a society where books are not so expensive to create. European books are owned largely by monasteries, where they are made, and nobles, who buy them. Most of Europe never owns a book...but if books are made mass producible, that will change. They are limited only by raw materials, then - and while that is a real limit, it's hardly an insurmountable one - and the existence of skilled operators for the devices. Free access to reading material will spread knowledge and literacy. REading will spread to the masses, as it is now a very useful skill. We do have a real-world model for this: Gutenberg's printing press of 1455. It spread like wildfire - by 1480 almost every city in Europe had a press. Within decades, it was used to make political treatises for the masses on inequality and oppressive nobles.

It's exaggeration to say the press killed feudalism or the Church, but it was vital to the spread of civil disobedience and Protestantism. Compared to Hermetic devices, the Gutenberg press was very slow, but much easier to make, so we might as well consider them equal. The spread of ideas and questioning of authority is a natural consequence of a literate society. The Church resisted vulgate translations of the Bible for centuries, for fear of what man might do if he could read it himself.

Also notable: you could easily put all the scribes in a city of out of work. The Scrinium works all day, all night and is much faster. It just needs raw materials, and can easily do the work of a team of scribes years faster than might otherwise be the case. The scribes would, of course, be furious. They'd complain to the burghers and lords to get the technology banned, perhaps arguing that magically made books are profaned - an outright lie, but a reason easily argued. It's also likely that non-religious scribes will organize into guilds over this. They have no strong reason to do so until their livelihoods are threatened, but may well then join with others who make their living writing, such as notaries and advocates. Monks can't join guilds, but may easily sympathize and support them.

Further, the Learned Magicians would easily side with them, for they are knwon for their parchment amulets and calligraphic items. They're invested in maintaining a scribal industry. The parchment makers and inksmiths might also help, but they're not directly threatened - indeed, they can sell their goods hand oiver fist to the magi, so they may support the Scrinium. Paper may become more widespread as a cheaper and faster alternative to parchment. The political power of the Scribes will vary by game, and if they can control the supply of writing materials, they will even be able to to command terms to the magi to some extent, at least until a magus invents a ritual to generate parchment cheaply. The scribes, if not so powerful, will work in sabotaging the new technology and its books. They may become a hidden, underground profession seen as archaic.

Now, assuming that Hermetic books are made more common at the same rate as mundane ones, or faster, the ORder itself will change. Books stop being priceless commodities. There will always be a place for artisan bookmakers who create magically enhanced books, but each covenant might own hundreds of books, especially if they own their own Scrinium. Study of books becomes muchj more common, especially for apprentices and for old magi who gain more ready access to tractatus they haven't already read. Magi don't gain more experience this way, but do gain more breadth of knowledge. The book suggests a new set of rules for running massive libraries, where most books go unstatted, but instead provide points towards larger topic collections.

Next time: Teleportation.