The Sundered Eagle for Ars Magica; thoughts from one of the authors

OK, I was one of four authors on this roleplaying games book, and I must say it was a real pleasure to work with Matt Ryan, Mark Shirley and Andrew Smith (not to mention our editor David Chart and publishers Michelle and John Nephew) on this one. It’s a supplement for the wonderful Ars Magica 5th Edition roleplaying game, (which you will need to use it)  and as the book is now being sent to the distributors and available (though it may take a few more days to reach Europe) I guess I can say a little bit about it now, from the perspective of just one of the writers. (We can’t talk about books while they are being written, or until published, for obvious reasons .)

The Sundered Eagle cover

The Sundered Eagle : cover by Grey Thornberry

Let’s start with the blurb from Atlas Games

Once-proud Constantinople has been ravaged by bloodthirsty Crusaders, and has sunken into depravity and ruin. With the fall of the blessed city, ancient magical bindings maintained by Roman relics of the defeated Empire are now shattered and broken, releasing beasts and demons to roam the land. Tales of unseasonal happenings draw eager hunters and curious Seekers alike. Meanwhile, the magi of the Theban Tribunal and their supernatural patrons devote their efforts to maintaining the peace. They struggle against divisions that mirror the age-old battles of the Titans and Olympian gods, who even now stir among their ancient temples and sanctuaries.

The Sundered Eagle contains full details of the Tribunal of Thebes. The lands of ancient Greece and Asia Minor are the home of epic legends and mighty gods of both Faerie and Magic, while the Byzantine Empire has its own myths. The Theban Tribunal’s magi and covenants, who govern themselves according to the democratic institutions of ancient Athens, live among plentiful sites of power. Both mundane and supernatural struggles for supremacy over these lands challenge characters to negotiate a maze of Byzantine schemes. Each faction will have the chance to restore peace and unity to the eastern Empire, under its own banner!

Sounds fun? The book is a high vis setting – vis (raw magic) is more common in the region than in say The Normandy Tribunal (I was also one of the  author on the book for that book, The Lion and the Lily , the Northern France setting for Ars Magica 5th). This ready supply of magic leads to a rather different feel to other Tribunals: as does the immensely long history of the region, home to the Greek myths, and the journeys fo Paul, and more recently the glory that was Constantinople and the Byzantine Empire.  The covenants of the Thebes Tribunal have a set of customs and traditions that will appear deeply strange to those used to the ‘vanilla’ Hermetic culture; each covenant has a mythic patron, and there is a fascinating (I can say this as I did not work on this bit) Tribunal system derived from Ancient Athenian democracy,where rogue or unpopular magic an be ostracised and driven from the Tribunal — but if you want to know more you will have to read the book! You can however download the Table of Contents here.

In 1204 the greatest city of Medieval Christendom, and last bastion of the Roman Empire, Constantinople, was destroyed by the Fourth Crusade in what many saw as an immense betrayal. If you are familiar with the 5th ed setting you will know that this had a marked effect on Hermetic politics, most of all on House Jerbiton; and you will also know that the Tribunal has long had a er, problematic relationship with the Tremere dominated Tribunal to the North.

Now the mighty Byzantine Empire has split in to various successor states – the Venetian and ‘Frank’ dominated Latin Empire based in Constantinople, the independent Latin state in Thessalonike, and the main Byzantine Greek states attempting to reunite the Empire – The Empire of Nicea, Trebizond (itself fighting with the Sultanate of Rum for survival) and what will soon become known as the Despotate of Epiros. With the Venetians maintain a maritime Empire on the islands, and various crusaders having carved out little principalities for themselves, the scheming, mundane politics and warfare makes for an adventure filled back drop for your saga. I wrote much of the ‘modern’ (meaning 1200-1220) history and politics  of the region, and in doing so I came to realise why we speak of ‘Byzantine’  schemes or plots!

This book was unique in my experience in one way; at Grand Tribunal 2008 all the authors and line editor David Chart managed to gather outside The Cotswolds pub in Cheltenham and enjoy  drink together, and discuss the book as we were writing it – all too often we are working together entirely by email, so it was lovely to see everyone, even if we had to shoo the other inquisitive delegates away from our secret discussions! Apologies to anyone we excluded, we obviously can’t discuss forthcoming books and live projects until publication!

While the authors sometimes receive praise for their work, it is in part undeserved – because Ars Magica books go through a long and very intense playtesting process, during which the helpful comments of playtester can really improve the text and help make the final  book shine. I’m alway amazed by how few playtesters, if any, are listed in many rpg games books —  Well Atlas takes the process very seriously, and I think it shows in th quality fo the books. I’d like to thank all the playtesters, as I’m sure would all the authors, and in particular the group led by Panagiotes Koutelidakes for helping with our at times barbarous Greek, and correcting things that only a native would have spot! 🙂

Anyway the book s out now, and praise or condemnation awaits! I hope all Ars players will pick up this book, and learn the secrets of the Tribunal of Thebes!

cj x

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About Chris Jensen Romer

I am a profoundly dull, tedious and irritable individual. I have no friends apart from two equally ill mannered cats, and a lunatic kitten. I am a ghosthunter by profession, and professional cat herder. I write stuff and do TV things and play games. It's better than being real I find.
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One Response to The Sundered Eagle for Ars Magica; thoughts from one of the authors

  1. Matt Ryan says:

    CJ,

    I thought it was fantastic when Mark, Andrew, David, you, and I sat outside your neighborhood pup and discussed the book. I always look forward to new Ars books, one’s I’m involved with and ones I’m not. I’m really happy with Thebes. writing it started a Byzantine obsession that I can’t kick.

    I’m currently reading Steven Runciman’s “The Lost Capital of Byzantium” along side “The Alexandreis: A Twelfth-Century Epic”, and just picked up “The Byzantine Wars” by John Haldon. The more I read about the Medieval Eastern Roman Empire the more I want. I can’t get enough!

    At the table we’ve started a saga set on the Mythic Seas, currently in Thebes territory but soon to pass through the Gates of Heracles and out into the Outer Oceans. Funny how it all works out and that my players and I are back in Mythic medieval Greece.

    Matt

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