Monday, October 22, 2012

Rotten in Denmark, Awesome in Play

I don't know what it is about the month of October but it seems I am destined to post lightly in the time leading up to Samhaine. Is it the work of evil spirits? A witch's hex may hap? I can not say. All I am sure of it I will try to make up for these past weeks as best I can.

This past Saturday I ran the first session of my group's newest campaign endeavour, Ars Magica: Something Rotten in Denmark.

Set in Denmark in the year 1172, our saga focuses on a covenant of magi known as The Silver Elk Lodge (Roughly said 'Sølv Elg Hus' in Danish), the oldest known holding of the Order of Hermes in Scandinavia. The covenant is in its 'Winter Season', with many of its older, more prestigious and powerful mages either dead or so far into their magical studies they don't perceive the mundane world any longer, nor it them. It's eldest wizard, the last living descendant of the covenant's founder, is over 200 years old and not long for this world. He is gravely ill and the potions that have extended his life no longer have the effect they once did.

The covenant has a few old friends and many enemies, not the least of which is the Catholic Church and the more strict members of the Order of Hermes itself. Many of the mages of the Silver Elk Lodge are of the old faith and ways, with some even practicing non-Hermetic magic to some extent. Pagan beliefs and rumors of Rune Casting have not done them any favors when dealing with their Southern brethren in Germany and the Holy Roman Empire. While King Valdemar The Great unites the bickering Jarls of Denmark, he wonders why he lets the Order of Hermes continue to operate in his lands if the mages won't fight for king and country. Likewise, Absalon, Bishop of Roskilde, who has been instrumental in converting the Danes to Christianity, is none too keen on the existence of mages on Danish soil, let alone ones who still adhere to the religion of the old Viking gods.

File:Bishop Absalon topples the god Svantevit at Arkona.PNG

Enter the Player I've mentioned in the past my group can be a bit on the quirky sides (what group isn't I suppose) but I have to applaud them in getting into the spirit of the game and the setting while still generating characters that are uniquely them.

Harder than character creation seemed to be understanding what I was going for with the tone and style of the setting. None of the guys playing in this one are huge history buffs and to be honest most of what I mentioned above is background material which, while it will play are part in the campaign, isn't actually the main focus of the campaign.

The game will be largely influenced by folklore and fairy tales, using a smattering of historical information sprinkled into Norse Mythology, Danish Legends and the stories collected by Hans Christen Anderson.

Case in point, our first adventure...

The Silver Elk, The Witch's Eye and The Heavy Raven

Nothing like aping Mignola for an Ars Magica game. Sorry Mike. I am just the huggest fan.
Hellboy for President!

As the leader of their covenant takes what may well be his final walk among the thigh-high standing stones which ring the Silver Elk Lodge, two Mages, their Companions and a small crew of Grogs, sail for the port town of Copenhagen to meet with a merchant still friendly with their aging group. The merchant, a Danish fellow named Falko, is a purveyor of rare herbs and other plants from many parts in and around Denmark. His herbs are needed for the medicinal potions currently enabling the leader of the Silk Elks to keep Death at bay.

After arrival and a day or so of waiting, Falko is a no show and no one has heard or seen him since his trip South to Germany. His last port of call would likely have been Malmo, a Danish town on the Southern Coast of Sweden. Since it is not especially far the group decides to travel there and see if they can learn more about their missing contact and ally.

Once in Malmo, the PCs do some investigating, talking to the Dockmaster and a few merchants and eventually encounter Erge of Flanders, a merchant specializing in furs, perfumes, oils and other animal products, who happens to be a friend and business associate of Falko. Erge showed the PCs a letter, written in Falko's handwriting (though terribly sloppy and scratchy), indicating he had fallen ill in Germany and would be delayed in returning.

Not to be defeated in their pursuit of the medicine they need, the PCs search Malmo's market place for someone who may have what they're looking for. They soon came across a young woman and her sleeping, wizened, old grandmother, who sell herbs but don't seem to have what the Mages need. That is until the grandmother wakes up, eyes the customers (well, one-eyes them. She is missing her right eye) and seems to realize they are indeed Wizards (they never mentioned they were Magi but did imply the herbs were needed for medicine and that the situation was grave).

The old woman, who bears the claw marks of a bird where her missing right eye should be, tells the Mages and their Companions that she does indeed have what they seek. Another Wizard, a dark and mysterious sort who looked the part of the Sorcerer far more than the PCs did, wanted to purchase it from her just the other day but he wouldn't pay her price and so she would not sell him the herbs.

Her price was the retrieval of her lost eye.

Stolen when she was a young lass, the age her granddaughter is now, by a raven who flew North into the thick woods. If the Mages can return her eye to her she will give them what they need...

More to come,

Barking Alien


  1. Very cool- look forward to reading more of this.

  2. Nice! Also looking forward to more updates. Ran a Ars Magica Campaign with scandinavian roots a couple of years ago. Had the chance to weave in a bit more of the norse and viking influence since it was set to York 1065. A very unstable Stonehenge Tribunal and politically unstable Britian.

    1. I think Ars Magica works best when the social and political elements of the time frame the campaign, even if they don't direct get involved in it.

      Actually, I can see that happening in this campaign far more than it did in many of my previous Ars Magica outtings. Usually I am more focused on the folklore/fairy tale nature of Mythic Europe and not the fact that the setting happens to be Europe in the Middle Ages. This time however, with the players being more detail oriented and less familiar with the fantastic angle of the source material, history may have something to say in the matter.

  3. Alright, the whole "retrieve my eye" thing has the wheels turning here now. That's a strong hook just by itself.

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