Our Covenant

Our Ars Magica session this week began with the arrival of our magi to the covenant of Druids’ Dale. We had an opportunity for our characters to meet up and introduce themselves to each other. As well as my maga Pisciculus ex Criamon, we have:

  • Eoin ex Miscellanea, a Scottish Gruagach
  • Allistor ex Miscellanea, an elementalist
  • Múireann ex Merinita
  • Alexandra ex Miscellanea, the head of the covenant.

The covenant looks newly built, nestled against a rock face with a sturdy stone wall protecting it. There are a number of houses, each capable of housing a large family comfortably, a barn and the main building which consists of the main hall, kitchens and guest quarters in the upper floor.

A conversation with Alexandra reveals that this place had originally been used by Grauagach wizards, until they were wiped out by magi of House Diedne and it became one of the three Diedne covenants of Alba. It was then in turn destroyed during the Schism war when House Diedne were wiped out. It has only recently been restored.

A number of servants live here, including a cook, a couple of cleaners and a couple of labourers. It’s not a huge population, but it’s enough for us.

Most notable inside the walls are the stone circle and a dark cave mouth in the rock face. The circle consists of two sets of concentric stones, the inner ones standing and the outer ones laying down.

After providing us all with tokens for the Aegis of the Hearth that had already been put in place, Maga Alexandra took us to the cave, and there seemed to be some veil that covered the 30ft wide entrance through which we could only see blackness. She confidently strode across the barrier though, so the rest of us followed. Beyond was a dim tunnel. We could see back out, but the magical veil prevented sight in.

Following the passage into the hillside took us to a large chamber, maybe 50ft across. A number of passages led out to the sides, and various boxes were strewn around the room. Apparently, according to Alexandra, these contained our library. There was Pictish/Ogham writing on the walls of the cavern, which Eoin translated for us as “The Immutable Paths“.

Most of the tunnels led to smaller rooms which would make ideal labs and living quarters for us. Alexandra had already taken the largest, leaving us to amiably agree over the rest. Pisciculus took one that was at the end of a long twisting, upward sloping passage, and Múireann took the one furthest from everyone else.

There was a final passage that led further into the hill, and apparently also deeper into the magical regio. It had a habit of reshaping itself, and the last time anyone went down there it had opened out into a meadow. There was writing above this passage also, which was “The Road of Infinity“. To my Criamon, all of this sounds interesting, and Múireann was keen to go exploring. However, she was convinced that it might be safer to weight.

The GM gave us an opportunity to decide what books were in the covenant’s library, and was generous in the selection. We had three books (summae) of level 12 quality 12, for which we selected the three techniques of Intellego, Creo and Muto. There were also two of level 6 quality 21, for which we selected Imagonem and Perdo.

There was a level 4, quality 10 ability summa, for which we were all in agreement over it being Parma Magica. We then selected some tractatus for Magic Theory (11), Penetration (10), Concentration (10) and Finesse (9).

Ars Magica is a crunchy system, but I think it adds to the flavour of the game. The study rules are quite complicated, even to the extent of having multiple types of books to read from. Summae can be studied multiple times, but have a maximum skill level they can train you to. They also have a quality, which is how quickly you learn from it. A complicated book with a high skill level (such as our Creo level 12 book) might have a quality of 12. You get 12 xp when you read from it. The simpler books (level 6), have a higher quality, so you get 21 xp each season – enough to take you to level 6 immediately.

Tractatus only have a quality. They have no maximum level, but each can only be read once. There might be multiple different Tractatus for a given ability or art, and each can be used to improve your skill to a higher level. But each one, once read, is then useless to you.

After that, there were spells for us to select. We had 75 spell levels each, and I ended up collecting together the list on a page so we had a record of it. I also gave some of the books titles, copied from some I’d come up with in an old campaign of mine. I think I still have a random book generator somewhere.

During this time our Gruagach Eoin was a bit left out, since he doesn’t use Hermetic arts or spells, making the library useless to him. So whilst we were sorting out our library, he wandered outside to take a look at the stone circle. He could see visions of the stones how they used to be, covered in carvings of Ogham script.

He is joined some time later by Múireann, who discovers that there is a regio over the stones. Walking widdershins around them 8 times causes her to vanish. Eoin comes to get the rest of us, and so we all (probably rather carelessly) decide to investigate and follow the widdershins path. We appear in a glade around the stones, which are now in a slightly different configuration and covered in script.

Caverns of Druids’ Dale

To the eyes of Eoin, who reads Pictish, this is a library built for Gruagach, though that is a fact the rest of us are unaware of – given that none of us speak Pictish. There is a second layer of regio here, but Múireann is unable to figure out the path to get to it.

The rest of the spring of 1220 is spent beginning to set up our laboratories. Alexandra is insistent that we all meet up weekly for a meal, to make sure that we are talking to each other and to check that we are at least alive and sane. We need to decide what we will do with the local mundanes – we should probably make our presence known, but how to present ourselves is the big question. Apart from Múireann we all have the Gift, which means mundanes will view us with great suspicion. They definitely won’t like my tattoos.

During the library design I’d been fiddling with Dungeondraft to come up with a map of our cavern labs. The GM seemed reasonably happy with it, so I need to finish it off and clear it with him and the other players. There’s meant to be 500 square feet per lab, plus I’ve added a bit extra for living quarters. I’m not certain whether living space is included in the 500 square feet, but I’ve assumed not. Since we have a spare lab, it’s being used as the library.

Next week, we’ll probably introduce our companions, and decide what to do with our mundane neighbours.

Samuel Penn

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