A number of us played in an Ars Magica campaign back in 1992. This synopsis was posted to usenet at the time, and remains a good introduction to the campaign.
Warning! There are spoilers to published adventures throughout the following pages. Be warned!
It started in 1277, after the Abigensian Crusade, which is known in the Order as the Mundane War. During the Crusade the Order split into factions, some siding with the Cathars, others with the Church, and some staying strictly isolationist. Magi fought magi, as well as the mundanes and the Church, in what was probably the worst battle for the Order since the Schism War. Almost half of the mages in the Order died, with Jerbiton, Tytalus, and Flambeau taking the brunt. Many vis sources were destroyed by the spread of Dominion. It's almost 40 years later, and the Order exists in uneasy truce with the mundanes and the Church. The four older magi in our covenant , Lucius, Hieronymous, Horatius, and Hadrick, were around during the Mundane War.
After the fighting ended there was a time of healing and repopulation. A better longevity potion [3rd edition] was discovered, and around 1260 it was discovered that with labwork vim vis could be summoned from a magic aura [2nd edition :)], which made up somewhat for the sadly reduced sources of vis. Many faerie areas have dimmed or retreated to Arcadia, and the only real vis sources now are outside Europe or both hard to get and claimed.
Adamas was a powerful covenant during the Mundane War, fiercely isolationist. Some of the younger mages who joined in the height of its power began to feel frozen out by the established hierarchy, and realized that they would never rise in the pecking order. Denied even the right to leave, a small group of these younger mages, now entering their years of power, fled in the night, taking portions of the library and some other resources for good measure. This was in 1276.
The first useful site that presented itself was what is now called Amnis Mirabilis, a small magic spring between a faerie domain and a sparse Dominion area, two days walk from Strasbourg, in the Lorraine, technically ruled by France. Treacherous faerie mountains defended the site from Adamas. The mages dammed the stream, producing a small lake and intensifying the aura, and built a small covenant and settled in.
The intent of the members of the covenant is to gather as much knowledge as possible, both about magic and about the world... As a result it's a mixture of research mages and adventurers, who want to explore the Levant and darkest Africa and such. Both the magical and the mundane libraries are pretty good at this point.
There have been almost 25 years of game time; the year is now 1300.
Lucius of House Bonisagus.
He instigated the covenant, and spent almost twelve years writing the library. He's brilliant but estranged from his House, as all but the youngest Bonisagus magi consider him to be a dangerous radical; he has a talent for coming up with spells or lab techniques that change the Order. He's a Vim mage, and his best technique is Creo. He has a powerful ritual that can destroy the magic aura in a 2 mile area, that was recently used with the cooperation of the Quaesitores to clean out some cursed areas in the Provencal tribunal. He likes animals, especially cats, and sometimes creates them spontaneously, but feels guilty if he doesn't quicken the spell with vis and the animals die and fade at the end of the day. He's currently fleshing out his repertoire of Vim spells, but he is growing more and more tempted to create more spells for Creo Vim... He has as a familiar a white cat named Aristotle, who enjoys discussing the philosophies of his namesake.
Quote: "*Theoretically* the aura will eventually return!"
Hieronymous of House Criamon.
Infuriates the other magi with his "more efficient" notation that only he can read. Sometimes he does really bizarre things, and he's definitely the creepiest of the magi, although he's creepy in a nice, if garrulous, way. He's skilled at Perdo magics, especially Perdo Corporem, but isn't interested in power. His grasp of magic theory is amazing; only Lucius can keep up with him at all. He's currently working on a Grand Unified Theory of Magic. He has a friendly rivalry with Horatius, though neither would admit that it is friendly. He's pushed two mages into Twilight, one unwillingly, which seems to have given Lucius ideas....
Quote: "Those priests know something about magic.. and they're hiding it!"
Horatius Pontifex of House Tremere.
A pompous elementalist, he's a bit like Ernest Hemingway would be if he were a mage. Horatius would probably have been happier as a Verditius mage, as he is constantly building things. For 25 years everyone in the covenant lived in huts because they had to gather enough vis so he could magically create twelve towers - one for each mage - as well as a larger central tower. Then he discovered through experimentation that sapphire was a wonderful material, even better than diamond, so he had to research a spell to turn stone into sapphire... The results are quite spectacular, but it surprised everyone that it ever got done. (We didn't quite make our deadline of before the Grand Tribunal.) He's currently making a flying boat out of sapphire. Wood, schmood.
Quote: "Well, Lord, what do you think of my towers? Nice, aren't they?"
Count: "Umm... quite. [aside: "Did I tell that nut he could build a castle?"]
Flunky: "I'm afraid so, sir. About 25 years ago."
Horatius: "I decided against the flying buttresses, but thought that the sapph-- I mean glass -- was a nice touch. Don't you?"
Count: "Very... nice."
Hadrick of House Flambeau.
He's Lucius' filius, but he joined Flambeau rather than Bonisagus because Lucius isn't appreciated by Bonisagus, and Hadrick wants people to like his research. House Flambeau likes his work, especially his Grip of Winter spell. He suffered a lab accident as an apprentice and as a result couldn't really talk until he lucked out while experimenting on his longevity potion. He wears a veil to hide the scarring from the accident. He is hugely obese and dislikes travel. He's currently writing a useful spell of every combination of every form and technique. He's gotten to Corporem.
Quote: "Mumble mumble mumble *mumble* mumble." *waving arms excitedly*
Gabriella of House Jerbiton.
She had plans of being a nun until the Church discovered her previously unknown faerie heritage, and a mage of Adamas on good terms with a local priest took her off their hands. She was one of the first to try the new Bjornaer technique for granting a heartbeast to a full mage (the cost is that you cannot take a familiar); her heartbeast is an elk doe. She spends much of her time among the local villagers, aiding in childbirth, and is working on non-invasive healing magics. She fell in love with a seeker mage named Gustav and had a daughter, now fostered at the Domus Magnus of House Quaesitor, with him. She is currently preparing for an expedition to the North Pole and studying the life magics.
Quote: "Now let's be reasonable..."
Justinian of House Tremere.
Horatius' filius, and he got his sigil back from his parens very young. He enjoys watching life rather than participating, using his magic for eavesdropping and spying. His library of arcane links is impressive and meticulously catalogued. Since he is forbidden by the Code to spy on other mages, he plans on becoming a political force within the Order, so he can watch them directly. In the meantime he is working on a spell to map an area down to the smallest detail, a map which magically moves and changes as the features change. He is fastidious and has pretentions of being a Roman: dressing in togas, bathing often, and exercising. His familiar is an eagle named Augustus.
Quote: "We should vote to see if Justinian should get an arcane link to all of the mages in the covenant, in case someone gets in trouble."
Justinian: "But I already have arcane links to everyone..."
Marcus Amadeus of House Jerbiton.
Hieronymous' filius, he's the son of a noble house. He has worldly political aspirations, and spends much of his time keeping in touch with a network of contacts. He has placed his eldest son as a page to the local count. He is also quite handy against diabolists, although for a long time he had a reputation for being useless in a fight. He's a mind mage, skilled at reading and altering memories.
Quote: "I shall see one of the Lord's daughters, and I shall be smitten. Then I shall impulsively ask for her hand in marriage."
Aeolio of House Bonisagus.
He was referred to Amnis Mirabilis by the nearby covenant of air mages. (They didn't need another one.) He likes to fly everywhere, and due to an unusual occurance with an air elemental can summon Auram vis from the air. He'd like to be a great and powerful mage, but keeps getting distracted from his studies by adventures. He idolizes Lucius. He was married until recently, but his wife Chloe was killed by the diabolist relatives she had escaped from when he, she, and Tanciere went on a deniable mission to make sure they'd never be a problem again. He's a good father to his children. He's currently planning on going on the expedition to the North Pole.
Quote: "I'll go!"
Imbria of House Flambeau.
Filia of Hadrick and the daughter of a local knight, she's an Aquam mage, with a minor specialty in Perdo. She has creative ideas for all of the things she can do with Aquam magic, but is too young to implement any as yet; she only recently became a mage. She wants to see the world. She got to see a goodly portion of it on her apprentice's gauntlet, when she went from Austria to Sicily via Hungary. (When your only magic is water magic, you follow rivers. She ended up on the Danube.) She recently acquired some kraken eggs, and has some *ambitious* plans for her familiar.
Quote: "Ooh, can I keep it?"
Tanciere of House Merinita.
Our newest acquisition, she's from the broken covenant of Doissetep; she was the apprentice of a Merinita mage there until a demon corrupted the covenant and killed him. The uncorrupted members sealed Doissetep off from the outside world, and her training was completed by a Tytalus mage. She then spent about 50 years fighting the demon and its followers, and as a result has been is *extremely* scary in combat. When Amnis Mirabilis sent an expedition to cleanse the Provencal cursed areas, they fought the demon. The only survivor from Doissetep was Tanciere, and she decided to join Amnis Mirabilis after looking at the local faerie areas and talking to its members. Amnis Mirabilis could hardly resist the temptation of the remnants of Doissetep's library she owned... She has faerie blood: churches make her itch and she has hooves, though as a Muto Corporem specialists she can look any way she chooses.
Quote: "I just want a quiet life."
Emendavit: September 3, 1998Chris Bertani <firstname.lastname@example.org>