Friday, October 26, 2012

Once We Were Vikings

Our Ars Magica campaign has just three players involved in it, excluding myself as Storyguide, having lost one to a particularly nasty work schedule.

That leaves us with Dave, Marcus and Ray, all holdovers from our previous Champions game. Our usual fourth, Lee, is the one stricken with a terrible case of weekend work hours that, as of this time, there appears to be no cure for.

While I do miss seeing my friend Lee, who I like very much as a person, I am not overly sorry he is not joining us for this campaign. Wow, that sounds just as dicky read aloud from this post as it did in my head, no two ways about it.

Thing is...our first Ars Magica session went very smoothly and we got a lot done in just 4 or 5 hours. We played for less time than normal by about two or three hours and got about twice as much accomplished. No one was over explaining every action, no one was analyzing every tiny detail only to ignore the information when it was needed and no one seemed intent on bringing us out of our immersion in the setting with constant 'meta' references.

Yeah, Lee would do that all the time. He would point out the MacGuffin in the story, call it a MacGuffin instead of whatever its name was and note all the various tropes that went with it. He was especially good at focusing on those tropes that weren't Superhero Comic Book related...while we were running a Superhero Comic Book game.

I hope I see Lee again soon...but that will not be missed.


I decided to try running this game in the troupe style recommended in the Ars Magica rulebook. This means that each Player plays at least two characters, a Magus (Wizard) and a Companion. In addition, each Magus can bring up to three Grogs ( lower rung henchpeople who keep the Magi's Covenant up and running) along on their adventures as well.

I am using the Grogs as 'communial characters'. I generate a bunch and the players decide who they are taking. If Dave is playing the Scout Grog, Trilina Greenboots, this week, he might be playing Alfrick The Fair, Archer Grog, next week, while someone else uses Greenboots.

Now on to the PCs...

Ray and Marcus' characters are members of the Silver Elk Lodge, the oldest Order of Hermes Covenant in Denmark. They are playing comparatively young members, as the vast majority of the Lodge's inhabitants are older than the hills of the Northern Jutland and twice as rocky and irregular.

Dave's characters are travelling North from their original homeland of Germany. The two characters were originally native to the region in and around the Black Forest. Driven to find more Wizards like himself as part of his very nature, Dave's Magus has come to Denmark with his Companion in tow.



Ray's Magus is Nikolas Van Der Hagen, a 40 year old, Danish Male Wizard of House Jerbiton. Raised Christian, believes his magical Gift is a Gift from on high and as such should be used to help people in need. While the rapidly expanding Roman Catholic Church in Denmark looks down on Magi and wonders if its not best to be rid of them, Master Nikolas offers a counterpoint and says that he and his allies are there to help the Church, not go against it. Generally this places Nikolas as the spokes person for the group most of the time as the one Magi who understands the mundanes, the priests and to some extent the nobility.

Ray's Companion is Henrik Thorson, aka Henrik the Red, a 36 old school Norseman*. Henrick is a sailor, a fighter and a lover of all liquids of an alcoholic nature. His byname, 'The Red', comes not from his ability to fell his enemies but rather the color he turns when he is good and inebriated, which is fairly often. Henrik is not really an alcoholic but rather he enjoys celebrating. A good drink is something he favors but not without reason. A sound reason often comes in the form of  a victorious battle, an amazing discovery or a heroic act that saves the lives of his friends. Birthdays are also a good reason drink. At dinner with a fine lady. Tuesdays.


Marcus' Magus is named Magnus (try that three times fast). Magnus is Danish Male, 33 or 35 ( I forget) and a Wizard of House Flambeau. Surprisingly subtle for a Magus whose specialty is fire and destructive spells, Magnus does have something of a reputation for having a violent temper. It has been implied (but not yet revealed) that this reputation is only partially deserved. Apparently Magnus is quite a patient and understanding fellow but has a certain something that sets him off. Calm, cool and collected, this House Flambeau Wizard will go off like an incendiary grenade if the wrong button is pushed.

The Companion to Magnus is Asnake, his 32 year old, Male Ethiopian Manservant and Bodyguard. Asnake means 'Become better than everyone else'. Not surprisingly, he is a multi-talented jack-of-all-trades, a cook, a knowledgeable guide to the South (Germany and Holy Roman Empire). He claims to be an escaped slave and that is, generally speaking, the truth.  Of course the true truth is more fantastic.

I was extremely impressed by Marcus for coming up with the secret of Asnake's background. It combines the legends of King Arthur, Rip Van Winkle and a type of African Spirit with a bit of real history thrown for good measure. Asnake did indeed escape from the Roman Empire...roughly 79 AD, 1093 years before the campaign setting year of 1172. He was a champion gladiator, taken to Pompeii with another gladiator, a good friend, by a Roman noble who wished to show them off to a rival. When Mount Vesuvius erupted and destroyed the city, the two friends attempted to escape by boat. Only Asnake made it off the beach. He rowed as fast and as hard as he could, entering into a huge cloud of mist and fog created by the blanket of hot ash hitting the Gulf of Naples.

Asnake rowed for what felt like days until the mist subsided. He found himself, somehow, in the North Sea, where he eventually made ground in Esbjerg, Denmark. Being completely unfamiliar with the region, he did not know he had travelled through time. It was only after a few altercations and the intervention of the Magus Magnus on his behalf that he realized what had truly happened. The two have kept Asnake's true origin secret to this day.


The wandering Wizard of House Bjornaer known as Adalfrid is Dave's Magus. He hails from Germany, one of several Magi who are self-proclaimed protectors of the Black Forest, its animals and to a lesser extent, its Zauberinnen (Faeries). Well, self-proclaimed but Faerie approved.

Long ago a covenant of Magi near the Black Forest made a habit of repeatedly stealing Faerie Vis (pronounce the V a lot like a W and the S not unlike a Z - it means raw Mana or Magic Essence) from the woodland's mystical inhabitants. The fae of the forest rebelled and decreed that without explicit permission from them, no Mage may pass through the Black Forest on penalty of death...or worse. And these are German faeries. They can do 'or worse' with no problem.

Adalfrid is on good terms with the animal spirits of the woods so the Zauberinnen approved him to be there as a favor to them.

Over time (for reasons we have not yet determined much less detailed), Adalfrid moved further and further North. He eventually left the Black Forest in search of more Bjornaer Magi, something that was becoming scare where he was. Eventually this quest brought him to the Silver Elk Lodge.

Dave's Companion character is Nadjute, a Female, visually in her very early twenties, serving as a healer and chirugeon. She is likewise German or at the very least seems German. She often seems to be naive or have limited exposure to the world outside of the deep woods of her home.

Her origins are a triffle odd, though not so much by Ars Magica standards...

One day, Adalfrid saved a doe (a deer. A female deer.) from unscrupulous hunters who were over hunting the area. The deer was an animal of great intelligence, will and spirit and it fell in love with him. The deer pleaded with the Wild Huntsman (Wode or Wodan, leader of the Wild Hunt of Germany) to allow her to become Human to be with her beloved. The Huntsman agreed but the transformation carried with it a curse. Although she can age in Human form, she can not die and will long outlive Adalfrid. What's more, Adalfrid does not feel the same way about her, treating her more often as a younger sister.

Nadjute looks perfectly Human.
She doesn't actually look like a beautiful girl with deer antlers.
I am being thematic here.

OK, tomorrow is the next session, which I may have to run from my chair at home as I hurt my foot a bit this week. We'll see how I am feeling in the morning. Maybe the guys will come over to my place. Maybe magic talking flowers will leap out of my backside. We shall see and I shall keep you updated.

Barking Alien

* We've decided that the terms 'Norseman' and 'Norsemen' are given to those Norwegian, Swedish or Danish individuals who have trouble giving up the tradtional, old ways of Scandinavia. Essentially it is a slang term for those who still wish their people were the Vikings. 

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